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Cosmic Dance of Nataraja. Brahmanical bronze. South Indian. 12th Century, 

Madras Museum. 











What Has India Contributed to Human Welfare? 1 

Hindu View of Art: Historical 18 

Hindu View of Art: Theory of Beauty 30 

That Beauty is a State 38 

Buddhist Primitives 46 

The Dance of Siva 56 

Indian Images With Many Arms 67 

Indian Music 72 

Status of Indian Women 82 

Sahaja 103 

Intellectual Fraternity 112 

Cosmopolitan View of Nietzsche 115 

Young India 122 

Individuality, Autonomy and Function 137 



Frontispiece Cosmic Dance of Nataraja, 12th Century. 

I. Figure a. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, 8th Century. 
Figure b Siva and Parvati on Mt. Kailasa, 8th Cen- 
tury 24-25 

II. Figure a. Deer. Mamallapuram. 8th Century. 

Figure b. Elephants, Mamallapuram, 8th Century . 26-27 

III. Krishna Disguised as a Milkmaid, 17th Century . . 28-29 

IV. Ajanta Fresco, 6th or 7th Century 40-41 

V. Figure a. Temple at Badami, 8th Century. 

Figure &. Monkey family. Mamallapuram, 8th Cen- 
tury 42-43 

VI. Figure a Seated Buddha, Gandhara, 1st century, A.D. 
Figure b. Dryad, SanchI, 2nd century, B.C. 
Figure c. Lay Worshippers at a Buddha Shrine, 2nd 

Century 46-47 

VII. Buddha in Samadhi 48-49 

VIII. Standing Bodhisattva, 2nd Century, A. D. . . . 50-51 
IX. Standing Buddha, Ceylon, 2nd Century, A. D. . . 52-53 

X. Standing Buddha, 2nd century, A.D 52-53 

XL Standing Images of Buddha, 2nd Century, A. D. . . 54-55 

XII. Brahma, Elephanta, 8th Century 66-67 

XIII. Durga as Chanel slaying Mahista, llth Century . . 68-69 

XIV. Death of Hiranyakasipu. Elura, 8th Century . . . 70-71 

XV. 'Chamber-music of an aristocratic society,' 18th Cen- 
tury 72-73 

XVI. Ratan Devi 74-75 

XVII. Todi Ragini (a musical mode), 16th Century . . . 76-77 

XVIII. Madhu-madhavl Ragini (a musical mode), 16th Cen- 
tury 78-79 

XIX. Todi Ragini (a musical mode), 18th Century . . . 80-81 

XX. A Hindu lady at her toilet, 18th Century .... 84-85 

XXL Chand Bibl, called Chand Sultan, 18th Century . . 86-87 

XXII. Hindu Marriage, about 1600 A. D 88-89 

XXIII. Radha in her kitchen, Krishna at the window, 1st Cen- 

tury 90-91 

XXIV. "Where each is both," 8th Century 104-105 

XXV. A School of Philosophy, 18th Century 130-131 

XXVI. Figure a. One of the gates of Jaipur. 

Figure b. Laying a warp in Madura 132-133 

XXVII. The Bathing Ghat at Benares . 134-135 


Each race contributes something essential to the world's 
civilization in the course of its own self-expression and self- 
realization. The character built up in solving its own problems, 
in the experience of its own misfortunes, is itself a gift which 
each offers to the world. The essential contribution of India, 
then, is simply her Indianness ; her great humiliation would be to 
substitute or to have substituted for this own character (sva- 
bhava) a cosmopolitan veneer, for then indeed she must come 
before the world empty-handed. 

If now we ask what is most distinctive in this essential contri- 
bution, we must first make it clear that there cannot be anything 
absolutely unique in the experience of any race. Its peculiarities 
will be chiefly a matter of selection and emphasis, certainly not 
a difference in specific humanity. If we regard the world as a 
family of nations, then we shall best understand the position of 
India by recognizing in her the elder, who no longer, it is true, 
possesses the virility and enterprise of youth, but has passed 
through many experiences and solved many problems which 
younger races have hardly yet recognized. The heart and essence 
of the Indian experience is to be found in a constant intuition of 
the unity of all life, and the instinctive and ineradicable conviction 
that the recognition of this unity is the highest good and the 
uttermost freedom. All that India can offer to the world pro- 
ceeds from her philosophy. This philosophy is not, indeed, 
unknown to others it is equally the gospel of Jesus and of Blake, 
Lao Tze, and RumI but nowhere else has it been made the essen- 
tial basis of sociology and education. 

Every race must solve its own problems, and those of its own 
day. I do not suggest that the ancient Indian solution of the 
special Indian problems, though its lessons may be many and 
valuable, can be directly applied to modern conditions. What I 
do suggest is that the Hindus grasped more firmly than others 
the fundamental meaning and purpose of life, and more deliber- 

1 First published in the 'Athenaeum,' London, 1915. 



ately than others organized society with a view to the attainment 
of the fruit of life; and this organization was designed, not for 
the advantage of a single class, but, to use a modern formula, to 
take from each according to his capacity, and to give to each 
according to his needs. How far the rishis succeeded in this 
aim may be a matter of opinion. We must not judge of Indian 
society, especially Indian society in its present moment of decay, 
as- if it actually realized the Brahmanical social ideas ; yet even 
with all its imperfections Hindu society as it survives will appear 
to many to be superior to any form of social organization attained 
on a large scale anywhere else, and infinitely superior to the social 
order which we know as "modern civilization." But even if it 
were impossible to maintain this view and a majority of Euro- 
peans and of English-educated Indians certainly believe to the 
contrary what nevertheless remains as the most conspicuous 
special character of the Indian cultur^ aMl^ 
for the modern world, is the evidence of a constant effort to 
understand the meaning and the ultimate purpose of life, and a I 
purposive organization of society in harmony with that order,' 
and with a view to the attainment of the purpose. 1 The Brah- 
manical idea is an Indian "City of the gods" as devanagari, the 
name of the Sanskrit script, suggests. The building of that 
city anew is the constant task of civilization; and though the 
details of our plans may change, and the contours of our building, 
we may learn from India to build on the foundations of the 
religion of Eternity. 

Where the Indian mind differs most from the average mind of 
modern Europe is in its view of the value of philosophy. In 
Europe and America the study of philosophy is regarded as an 

1 Lest I should seem to exaggerate the importance which Hindus attach 
to Adhyatma-vidya, the Science of the Self, I quote from the ' Bhagavad 
Glta,' ix. 2 : "It is the kingly science, the royal secret, sacred surpassingly. 
It supplies the only sanction and support to righteousness, and its benefits 
may be seen even with the eyes of the flesh as bringing peace and perma- 
nence of happiness to men"; and from Manu, xii. 100: "Only he who 
knows the Vedasastra. only he deserves to be the Leader of Armies, the 
Wielder of the Rod of Law, the King of Men, the Suzerain and Overlord 
of Kings." 

The reader who desires to follow up the subject of this essay is strongly 
recommended to the work of Bhagavan Das, ' The Science of Social 
Organization' London and Benares. 1910. 


end in itself, and as such it seems of but little importance to the 
ordinary man. In India, on the contrary, philosophy is not 
regarded primarily as a mental gymnastic, but rather, and with 
deep religious conviction, as our salvation (moksha) from the 
ignorance (avidyd) which for ever hides from our eyes the vision 
of reality. Philosophy is the key to the map of life, by which are 
set forth the meaning of life and the means of attaining its goal. 
It is no wonder, then, that the Indians have pursued the study 
of philosophy with enthusiasm, for these are matters that con- 
cern all. 

There is a fundamental difference between the Brahman and 
the modern view of politics. The modern politician considers 
that idealism in politics is unpractical; time enough, he thinks, 
to deal with social misfortunes when they arise. The same out- 
look may be recognized in the fact that modern Irnedicine lays 
greater stress on cure than on prevention, i. e. t endeavours to U 
protect against unnatural conditions rather than to change the 
social environment. The Western sociologist is apt to say : "The 
teachings of religion and philosophy may or may not be true, but j j 
in any case they have no significance for the practical reformer." 1 
I The Brahmans, on the contrary, considered all activity not ' 
directed in accordance with a consistent theory of the meaning 
and purpose of life as supremely unpractical. 

Only one condition permits us to excuse the indifference of the 
European individual to philosophy; it is that the struggle to 
exist leaves him no time for reflection. Philosophy can only be j y 
known to those who are alike disinterested and free from care; 
and Europeans are not thus free, whatever their political status. 
Where modern Industrialism prevails, the Brahman, Kshattriya, 
and Sudra alike are exploited by the Vaishya, 1 and where in this 
way commerce settles on every tree there must be felt continual 
anxiety about a bare subsistence; the victim of Industry must 
confine his thoughts to the subject of to-morrow's food for him- 
- Sself and his family; the mere Will to Life takes precedence of 
;the Will to Power. If at the^ same time it is decided that every 
man's voice is to count equally in the councils of the nation, it 
follows naturally that the voice of those who think must be 

1 Brahman, Kshattriya, Vaishya, Siidra the four primary types of 
Brahmanical sociology, viz., philosopher and educator, administrator and 
soldier, tradesman and herdsman, craftsman and labourer. 


drowned by that of those who do not think and have no leisure. 
This position leaves all classes alike at the mercy of unscrupulous 
individual exploitation, for all political effort lacking a philo- 
sophical basis becomes merely opportunist. The problem of 
modern Europe is to discover her own aristocracy and to learn 
to obey its will. 

It is just this problem which India long since solved for her- 
self in her own way. Indian philosophy is essentially the cre- 
ation of the two upper classes of society, the Brahmans and the 
Kshattriyas. To the latter are due most of its forward move- 
ments; to the former its elaboration, systematization, mythical 
representation, and application. The Brahmans possessed not 
merely the genius for organization, but also the power to enforce 
their will; for, whatever may be the failings of individuals, the 
Brahmans as a class are men whom other Hindus have always 
agreed to reverence, and still regard with the highest respect 
and affection. The secret of their power is manifold; but it is 
above all in the nature of their appointed dharma, of study, teach- 
ing, and renunciation. 

Of Buddhism I shall not speak at great length, but rather in 
parenthesis ; for the Buddhists never directly attempted to organ- 
ize human society, thinking that, rather than concern himself 
with polity, the wise man should leave the dark state of life in 
the world to follow the bright state of the mendicant. 1 Buddhist 
doctrine is a medicine solely directed to save the individual from 
burning, not in a future hell, but in the present fire of his own 
thirst. It assumes that to escape from the eternal recurrence is 
not merely the summum bonum, but the whole purpose of life ; 
he is the wisest who devotes himself immediately to this end; 
he the most loving who devotes himself to the enlightenment of 

Buddhism has nevertheless deep and lasting effects on Indian 
state-craft. For just as the Brahman philosopher advised and 
guided his royal patrons, so did the Buddhist ascetics. The senti- 
ment of friendliness (metteya), through its effect upon individual 
character, reacted upon social theory. 

It is difficult to separate what is Buddhist from what is Indian 
generally; but we may fairly take the statemanship of the great 

* Dhammapada, 87; also the Jatakamala of Arya Sura, xix, 27. 


Buddhist Emperor Asoka as an example of the effect of Buddhist 
teaching upon character and policy. His famous edicts very well 
illustrate the little accepted truth that "in the Orient, from 
ancient times, national government has been based on benevolence, 
and directed to securing the welfare and happiness of the peo- 
ple." 1 One of the most significant of the edicts deals with "True 
Conquest." Previous to his acceptance of the Buddhist dharma 
Asoka had conquered the neighbouring kingdom of the Kalingas, 
and added their territory to his own; but now, says the edict, 
His Majesty feels "remorse for having conquered the Kalingas, 
because the conquest of a country previously unconquered in- 
volves the slaughter, death, and carrying away captive of the 
people. That is a matter of profound sorrow and regret to His 
Sacred Majesty . . . His Sacred Majesty desires that all animate 
beings should have security, self-control, peace of mind, and 
joyousness. . . .My sons and grandsons, who may be, should not 
regard it as their duty to conquer a new conquest. If perchance 
they become engaged in a conquest by arms, they should take 
pleasure in patience and gentleness, and regard as (the only true) 
conquest, the conquest won by piety. That avails both for this 
world and the next." 

In another edict "His Sacred and Gracious Majesty the King 
does reverence to men of all sects, whether ascetics or house- 
holders." Elsewhere he announces the establishment of hos- 
pitals, and the appointment of officials "to consider the case 
where a man has a large family, has been smitten by calamity, 
or is advanced in years"; he orders that animals should not be 
killed for his table; he commands that shade and fruit trees 
should be planted by the high roads ; and he exhorts all men to 
"strive hard." He quotes the Buddhist saying, "All men are my 
children." The annals of India, and especially of Ceylon, can 
show us other Buddhist kings of the same temper. But it will 
be seen that such effects of Buddhist teaching have their further 
consequences mainly through benevolent despotism, and the moral 
order established by one wise king may be destroyed by his suc- 
cessors. Buddhism, so far as I know, never attempted to 

1 Viscount Torio in The Japan Daily Mail, November 19th-20th, 1890. 
The whole essay, of which a good part is quoted in Lafcadio Hearn's 
' Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan/ is a searching criticism of Western polity, 
regarded from the standpoint of a modern Buddhist. 


formulate a constitution or to determine the social order. Just 
this, however, the Brahmans attempted in many ways, and to a 
great extent achieved, and it is mainly their application of religi- 
ous philosophy to the problems of sociology which forms the 
subject of the present discussion. 

The Kshattriya-Brahman solution of the ultimate problems of 
life is given in the early Upanishads. 1 It is a form of absolute 
(according to Sankaracharya) or modified (according to 
Ramanuja) Monism. Filled with enthusiasm for this doctrine of 
the Unity or Interdependence of all life, the Brahman-Utopists set 
themselves to found a social order upon the basis provided. In 
the great epics 2 they represented the desired social order as 
having actually existed in a golden past, and they put into the 
mouths of the epic heroes not only their actual philosophy, but 
the theory of its practical application this, above all, in the long 
discourses of the dying Bhishma. The heroes themselves they 
made ideal types of character for the guidance of all subsequent 
generations; for the education of India has been accomplished 
deliberately through hero-worship. In the 'Dharmasastra' of 
Manu 3 and the ' Arthasastra'* of Chanakya perhaps the most 
remarkable sociological documents the world possesses they set 
forth the picture of the ideal society, defined from the standpoint 
of law. By these and other means they accomplished what has 
not yet been effected in any other country in making religious 
philosophy the essential and intelligible basis of popular culture 
and national polity. 

1 Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads, translated by A. S. Geden, 
London, 1906. 

2 The ' Mahabharata * and ' The Ramayana.' These can be studied in the 
prose translations by P. C. Ray and M. N. Dutt, published in Calcutta. 

3 This most important document is best expounded by Bhagavan Das, 
The Science of Social Organization, London and Benares, 1910; also 
translated in full in the "Sacred Books of the East," vol. xxv. "Herein," 
says Manu (i. 107, 118), "are declared the good and evil results of 
various deeds, and herein are expounded the eternal principles of all the 
four types of human beings, of many lands, nations, tribes, and families, 
and also the ways of evil men." 

4 N. ^N. Law. Studies in Ancient Hindu Polity, London. 1914. The 
following precept may serve as an example of the text: that the king 
who has acquired new territory " should follow the people in their faith, 
with which they celebrate their national, religious, and congregational 
festivals and amusements." 


What, then, is the Brahman view of life? To answer this at 
length, to expound the Science of the Self (Adhyatma-vidyd) , 
which is the religion and philosophy of India, would require con- 
siderable space. We have already indicated that this science ' ~ 
recognizes the unity of all life one source, one essence, and one 
goal and regards the realization of this unity as the highest good, 
bliss, salvation, freedom, the final purpose of life. This is for 
Hindu thinkers eternal life; not an eternity in time, but the 
recognition here and now of All Things in the Self and the Self 
in All. "More than all else," says Kabir, who may be said to 
; ; speak for India, "do I cherish at heart that love which makes me 
I to live a limitless life in this world." This inseparable unity of 
the material and spiritual world is made the foundation of the 
Indian culture, and determines the whole character of her social 

How, then, could the Brahmans tolerate the practical diversity 
of life, how provide for the fact that a majority of individuals 
are guided by selfish aims, how could they deal with the problem 
of evil? They had found the Religion of Eternity (Nirguna 
Vidya) ; what of the Religion of Time (Saguna Vidya) ? 

This is the critical point of religious sociology, when it remains 
to be seen whether the older idealist (it is old souls that are 
idealistic, the young are short-sighted) can remember his youth, 
and can make provision for the interest and activities of spiritual 
immaturity. To fail here is to divide the church from the every- 
day life, and to create the misleading distinction of sacred and 
profane; to succeed is to illuminate daily life with the light of 

The life or lives of man may be regarded as constituting a curve 
an arc of time-experience subtended by the duration of the 
individual Will to Life. The outward movement on this curve 
Evolution, the Path of Pursuit the Pravfitti Marga is char- 
acterized by self-assertion. The inward movement Involution, 
the Path of Return the Nivritti Marga is characterized by 
increasing Self-realization. 1 The religion of men on the outward 

1 It is a common convention of Indianists to print the world "self" in 
lower case when the ego (jivatman) is intended, and with a capital when 
the higher self, the divine nature (paramatman) , is referred to. Spiritual 
freedom the true goal is the release of the self from the ego concept. 


path is the Religion of Time; the religion of those who return 
is the Religion of Eternity. If we consider life as one whole, 
certainly Self-realization must be regarded as its essential pur- 
pose from the beginning; all our forgetting is but that we may 
remember the more vividly. But though it is true that in most 
men the two phases of experience interpenetrate, we shall best 
understand the soul of man drawn as it is in the two opposite, 
or seeming opposite, directions of Affirmation and Denial, Will 
and Will- surrender by separate consideration of the outward 
and the inward tendencies. Brahmans avoid the theological use 
of the terms "good" and "evil," and prefer to speak of "knowl- 
edge" and "ignorance" (vidya and avidya), and of the three 
qualities of sattva, rajas, and tamas. As knowledge increases, so 
much the more will a man of his own motion, and not from any 
sense of duty, tend to return, and his character and actions will 
be more purely sattvic. But we need not on that account condemn 
the self-assertion of the ignorant as sin; for could Self-realiza- 
tion be where self-assertion had never been? It is not sin, but 
youth, and to forbid the satisfaction of the thirst of youth is not 

Ja cure; rather, as we realize more clearly every day desires sup- 
pressed breed pestilence. The Brahmans therefore, notwithstand- 
ing the austere rule appointed for themselves, held that an ideal 
human society must provide for the enjoyment of all pleasures 
by those who wish for them; they would say, perhaps, that 
those who have risen above the mere gratification of the senses, 
and beyond a life of mere pleasure, however refined, are just 
those who have already tasted pleasure to the full. 

For reasons of this kind it was held that the acquisition of 
wealth (artha) and the enjoyment of sense-pleasure (kama), 
subject to such law (dharma 1 ) as may protect the weak against 
fhe strong, are the legitimate preoccupations of those on the 
outward path. This is the stage attained by modern Western 
society, of which the norm is competition regulated by ethical 
restraint. Beyond this stage no society can progress unless it is 
subjected to the creative will of those who have passed beyond 
the stage of most extreme egoism, whether we call them heroes, 

* Dharma is that morality by which a given social order is protected. 
" It is by Dharma that civilization is maintained " (Matsya Purana, cxlv. 
27). Dharma may also be translated as social norm, moral law, order, 
duty, righteousness, or as religion, mainly in its exoteric aspects. 



guardians, Brahmans, Samurai, or simply men of genius. 

Puritanism consists in a desire to impose the natural asceticism 
of age upon the young, and this position is largely founded on the 
untenable theories of an absolute ethic and an only true theology. 
The opposite extreme is illustrated in industrial society, which 
accepts the principles of competition and self-assertion as a mat- 
ter of course, while it denies the value of philosophy and dis- 
cipline. Brahman sociology, just because of its philosophical 
basis, avoided both errors in adopting the theory of sva-dharma, 
the "own-morality" appropriate to the individual according to his 
social and spiritual status, and the doctrine of the many forms 
of Isvara, which is so clumsily interpreted by the missionaries as 
polytheistic. However much the Brahmans held Self-realization 
to be the end of life, the summum bonum, they saw very clearly 
that it would be illogical to impose this aim immediately upon 
those members of the community who are not yet weary of self- 
assertion. It is most conspicuously in this understanding toler- 
ance that Brahman sociology surpasses other systems. 

At this point we must digress to speak briefly of the doctrine 
of reincarnation, which is involved in the theory of eternal recur- 
rence. This doctrine is assumed and built upon by Brahman 
sociologists, and on this account we must clearly understand its 
practical applications. We must not assume that reincarnation is 
a superstition which, if it could be definitely refuted (and that 
is a considerable "if") would have as a theory no practical value. 
Even atoms and electrons are but symbols, and do not repre- 
sent tangible objects like marbles, which we could see if we 
had large enough microscopes; the practical value of a theory 
does not depend on its representative cEaracter, but on its efficacy 
in resuming past observation and forecasting future events. The 
doctrine of reincarnation corresponds to a fact which everyone 
must have remarked; the varying age of the souls of men, irre- 
spective of the age of the body counted in years. "A man is 
not an elder because his head is grey" (Dhammapada, 260). 
Sometimes we see an old head on young shoulders. Some men 
remain irresponsible, self-assertive, uncontrolled, unapt to their 
last day; others from their youth are serious, self-controlled, 
talented, and friendly. We must understand the doctrine of 
reincarnation at any rate as an artistic or mythical representation 
of these facts. To these facts the Brahmans rightly attached 


great importance, for it is this variation of temperament or inheri- 
tance which constitutes the natural inequality of men, an inequality 
/] that is too often ignored in the theories of Western democracy. 

We can now examine the Brahmanical theory a little more 
closely. An essential factor is to be recognized in the dogma 
of the rhythmic character of the world-process. This rhythm is 
determined by the great antithesis of Subject and Object, Self 
and not-Self, Will and Matter, Unity and Diversity, Love and 
Hate, and all other "Pairs." The interplay of these opposites 
constitues the whole of sensational and registrateable existence, 
the Eternal Becoming (samsdra), which is characterized by birth 
and death, evolution and involution, descent and ascent, srishti 
and samhdra. Every individual life mineral, vegetable, animal, 
human, or personal god has a beginning and an end, and this 
creation and destruction, appearance and disappearance, are of 
\ the essence of the world-process and equally originate in the 
past, the present, and the future. According to this view, then, 
every individual ego (jlvatman), or separate expression of the 
general Will to Life (ichchha, trishna), must be regarded as hav- 
ing reached a certain stage of its own cycle (gati). The same 
Jis true of the collective life of a nation, a planet, or a cosmic 
system. It is further considered that the turning point of this 
curve is reached in man, and hence the immeasurable value which 
Hindus (and Buddhists) attach to birth in human form. Before 
the turning point is reached to use the language of Christian 
theology the natural man prevails ; after it is passed, regenerate 
man. The turning point is not to be regarded as sudden, for the 
two conditions interpenetrate, and the change of psychological 
centre of gravity may occupy a succession of lives ; or if the turn- 
ing seems to be a sudden event, it is only in the sense that the 
fall of a ripe fruit appears sudden. 

According to their position on the great curve, that is to say, 
according to their spiritual age, we can recognize three prominent 
types of men. There is first the mob, of those who are pre- 
occupied with the thought of I and Mine, whose objective is self- 
assertion, but are restrained on the one hand by fear of retaliation 
and of legal or after-death punishment, and on the other by the 
beginnings of love of family and love of country. These, in the 
main, are the "Devourers" of Blake, the "Slaves" of Nietzsche. 
Next there is a smaller, but still large number of thoughtful and 


good men whose behaviour is largely determined by a sense of 
duty, but whose inner life is still the field of conflict between the 
old Adam and the new man. Men of this type are actuated on 
the one hand by the love of power and fame, and ambition more 
or less noble, and on the other by the disinterested love of man- 
kind. But this type is rarely pan-human, and its outlook is often 
simultaneously unselfish and narrow. In times of great stress, 
the men of this type reveal their true nature, showing to what 
extent they have advanced more or less than has appeared. But 
all these, who have but begun to taste of freedom, must still be 
guided by rules. Finally, there is the much smaller number of 
great men heroes, saviours, saints, and avatars who have defi- 
nitely passed the period of greatest stress and have attained peace, 
or at least have attained to occasional and unmistakeable vision 
of life as a whole. These are the "Prolific" of Blake, the 
"Masters" of Nietzsche, the true Brahmans in their own right, 
and partake of the nature of the Superman and the Bodhisattva. 
Their activity is determined by their love and wisdom, and not 
by rules. In the world, but not of it, they are the flower of 
humanity, our leaders and teachers. 

These classes constitute the natural hierarchy of human society. 
The Brahman sociologists were firmly convinced that in an ideal 
society, *. e., a society designed deliberately by man for the fulfil- 
ment of his own purpose (purushartha) * not only must oppor- 
tunity be allowed to every one for such experience as his spiritual 
status requires, but also that the best and wisest must rule. It 
seemed to them impossible that an ideal society should have any 
other than an aristocratic basis, the aristocracy being at once 
intellectual and spiritual. Being firm believers in heredity, both 
of blood and culture, they conceived that it might be possible to 
constitute an ideal society upon the already existing basis of 
occupational caste. "If," thought they, "we can determine natural 

1 Purushartha. This is the Brahmanical formula of utility, forming 
the standard of social ethics. A given activity is useful, and therefore 
right, if it conduces to the attainment of dharma, artha, kama and moksha 
(function, prosperity, pleasure, and spiritual freedom), or any 
one or more of these without detriment to any other. Brahmanical utility 
takes into account the whole man. Industrial sociologists entertain a 
much narrower view of utility: "It is with utilities that have a price that 
political economy is mainly concerned" (Nicholson, Principles of Politi- 
cal Economy, ed. 2. p. 28) . 


classes, then let us assign to each its appropriate duties (sva- 
dharma, own norm) and appropriate honour; this will at once 
facilitate a convenient division of necessary labour, ensure the 
handing down of hereditary skill in pupillary succession, avoid 
all possibility of social ambition, and will allow to every individual 
the experience and activity which he needs and owes." They 
assumed that by a natural law, the individual ego is always7~or 
nearly always, born into its own befitting environment. If they 
were wrong on this point, then its remains for others to discover 
some better way of achieving the same ends. I do not say that 
this is impossible; but it can hardly be denied that the Brah- 
manical caste system is the nearest approach that has yet been 
made towards a society where there shall be no attempt to realise 
a competitive equality, but where all interests are regarded as 
identical. To those who admit the variety of age in human souls, 
this must appear to be the only true communism. 

To describe the caste system as an idea or in actual practice 
would require a whole volume. But we may notice a few of its 
characteristics. The nature of the difference between a Brahman 
and a Sudra is indicated in the view that a Sudra can do no 
wrong, 1 a view that must make an immense demand upon the 
patience of the higher castes, and is the absolute converse of the 
Western doctrine that the King can do no wrong. These facts are 
well illustrated in the doctrine of legal punishment, that that of 
the Vaishya should be twice as heavy as that of the Sudra, that 
that of the Kshattriya twice as heavy again, that of the Brahman 
twice or even four times as heavy again in respect of the same 
offence ; for responsibility rises with intelligence and status. The 
Sudra is also free of innumerable forms of self-denial imposed 
upon the Brahman ; he may, for example, indulge in coarse food, 
the widow may re-marry. It may be observed that it was 
strongly held that the Sudra should not by any means outnumber 
the other castes ; if the Sudras are too many, as befell in ancient 
Greece, where the slaves outnumbered freemen, the voice of the 
least wise may prevail by mere weight of numbers. 

Modern craftsmen interested in the regulation of machinery will 
be struck by the fact that the establishment and working of large 
machines and factories by individuals was reckoned a grievous 

1 Manu, x. 126. 


sin; large organizations are only to be carried on in the public 
interest. 1 

Given the natural classes, one of the good elements of what is 
now regarded as democracy was provided by making the castes 
self-governing; thus is was secured that a man should be tried 
by his peers (whereas, under Industrial Democracy, an artist may 
be tried by a jury of tradesmen, or a poacher by a bench of 
squires). Within the caste there existed equality of opportunity 
for all, and the caste as a body had collective privileges and 
responsibilities. Society thus organized has much the appearance 
of what would now be called Guild Socialism. 

In a just and healthy society, function should depend upon 
1 1 capacity; and in the normal individual, capacity and inclination 
are inseparable (this is the 'instinct of workmanship'). We are 
sble accordingly to recognize, in the theory of the Syndicalists, as 
well as in the caste organization of India, a very nearly ideal com- 
bination of duty and pleasure, compulsion and freedom; and the 
words vocation or dharma imply this very identity. Individual- 
ism and socialism are united in the concept of function. 

The Brahmanical theory has also a far-reaching bearing on the 
/ problems of education. "Reading/' says the Garuda Purana, "to 
/ a man devoid of wisdom, is like a mirror to the blind." The 
Brahmans attached no value to uncoordinated knowledge or to 
unearned opinions, but rather regarded these as dangerous tools 
in the hands of unskilled craftsmen. The greatest stress is laid 
on the development of character. Proficiency in hereditary apti- 
tudes is assured by pupillary succession within the caste. But 

1 Manu, 3d. 63, 64. 66. 

A truly progressive society is only possible where there is unity of pur- 
pose. How rapidly the social habit can then be changed is well illustrated 
by the action of many of the Allied Governments in taking con- 
trol of several departments of industrial production. It is only sad to 
reflect that it needed a great disaster to compel so simple an act as the 
limitation of profits. In the same way vast sums are now spent on 
caring for the welfare of an army of soldiers who would be, and will 
again be, left to the tender mercies of the labour market in times of 
peace. If the nation were as united in peace by a determination to make 
the best of life how much could not be accomplished at a fraction of the 
cost of war? If a nation can co-operate for self-defence, why not also 
for self-development? 


it is in respect of what we generally understand by higher educa- 
tion that the Brahman method differs most from modern ideals; 
for it is not even contemplated as desirable that all knowledge 
should be made accessible to all. The key to education is to be 
.found in personality. There should be no teacher for whom 
teaching is less than a vocation (none may "sell the Vedas"), and 
no teacher should impart his knowledge to a pupil until he finds 
the pupil ready to receive it, and the proof of this is to be 
found in the asking of the right questions. "As the man who 
digs with a spade obtains water, even so an obedient pupil obtains 
the knowledge which is in his teacher." 1 

The relative position of man and woman is also very note- 
worthy. Perhaps the woman is in general a younger soul, as 
Paracelsus puts it, "nearer to the world than man." But there is 
no war of words as to which is the superior, which inferior; for 
the question of competitive equality is not considered. The Hindu 
marriage contemplates identity, and not equality. 2 The pri- 
mary motif of marriage is not merely individual satisfaction, but 
the achievement of Purushartha, the purposes of life, and the 
wife is spoken of as sahadharmacharinl, "she who cooperates in 
the fulfillment of social and religious duties." In the same way 
for the community at large, the system of caste is designed rather 
to unite than to divide. Men of different castes have more in 
common than men of different classes. It is in an Industrial 
Democracy, and where a system of secular education prevails, 
that groups of men are effectually separated ; a Western professor 
and a navvy do not understand each other half so well as a 
Brahman and a Sudra. It has been justly remarked that "the 
lowest pariah hanging to the skirts of Hindu society is in a 
sense as much the disciple of the Brahman ideal as any priest 

It remains to apply what has been said to immediate problems. 
I have suggested that India has nothing of more value to offer to 
the world than her religious philosophy, and her faith in the 
application of philosophy to social problems. A few words may 

1 Manu. ii. 218. 

2 Manu, ix. 45. "The man is not the man alone; he is the man, the 
woman, and the progeny. The Sages have declared that the husband is 
the same as the wife." 


be added on the present crisis 1 and the relationship of East and 
West. Let us understand first that what we see in India is a co- 
operative society in a state of decay. Western society has never 
been so highly organized, but in so far as it was organized, its 
disintegration has proceeded much further than is yet the case in 
India. And we may expect that Europe, having sunk into in- 
dustrial competition first, will be the first to emerge. The seeds 
of a future co-operation have long been sown, and we can clearly 
recognize a conscious, and perhaps also an unconscious, effort 
towards reconstruction. 

In the meantime the decay of Asia jroceeds, partly of internal 
necessity, because at the present moment the social change from 
co-operation to competition is spoken of as progress, and because 
it seems to promise the ultimate recovery of political power, and 
partly as the result of destructive exploitation by the Industrial- 
ists. Even those European thinkers who may be called the 
prophets of the new age are content to think of a development 
taking place in Europe alone. But let it be clearly realized that 
the modern world is not the ancient world of slow communi- 
cations; what is done in India or Japan to-day has immediate 
spiritual and economic results in Europe and America. To say 
that East is East and West is West is simply to hide one's 
head in the sand. 2 It will be quite impossible to establish any 

1 1 do not mean the present war. as such, but civilization at the parting 
of the ways. 

2 I should like to point out here that Mr. Lowes Dickinson's return to 
this position ('An Essay on India, China, and Japan,' and ' Appearances/ 
both 1914), is very unfortunate. He says the religion of India is the 
Religion of Eternity, the religion of Europe the Religion of Time, and 
chooses the latter. These phrases, by the way, are excellent renderings 
of Pravritti dharma and Nivritti dharma. So far as Mr. Dickinson's dis- 
tinction is true, in so far that is as India suffers from premature vairagya, 
and Europe from excessive activity, so far each exhibits an excess which 
each should best be able to correct. But an antithesis of this sort is only 
conceptually possible, and no race or nation has ever followed either of 
the religions exclusively. All true civilization is the due adjustment of 
the two points of view. And just because this balance has been so con- 
spicuously attained in India, one who knows far more of India than 
Mr. Dickinson remarks that she " may yet be destined to prepare the way 
for the reconciliation of Christianity with the world, and through the 
practical identification of the spiritual with the temporal life, to hasten 
the period of that third step forward in the moral development of human- 


higher social order in the West so long as the East remains in- 
fatuated with the, to her, entirely novel and fascinating theory of 

The rapid degradation of Asia is thus an evil portent for the 
future of humanity and for the future of that Western social 
idealism of which the beginnings are already recognizable. If, 
either in ignorance or in contempt of Asia, constructive European 
thought omits to seek the co-operation of Eastern philosophers, 
there will come a time when Europe will not be able to fight 
Industrialism, because this enemy will be entrenched in Asia. It 
is not sufficient for the English colonies and America to protect 
themselves by immigration laws against cheap Asiatic labour; 
that is a merely temporary device, and likely to do more harm 
than good, even apart from its injustice. Nor will it be possible 
for the European nationalist ideal that every nation should choose 
its own form of government, and lead its own life, 1 to be realized, 
so long as the European nations have, or desire to have, 
possessions in Asia. What has to be secured is the conscious 
co-operation of East and West for common ends, not the sub- 
jection of either to the other, nor their lasting estrangement. For 
if Asia be not with Europe, she will be against her, and there 
may arise a terrible conflict, economic, or even armed, between 
an idealistic Europe and a materialized Asia. 

To put the matter in another way, we do not fully realize the 
debt that Europe already owes to Asiatic thought, for the dis- 
covery of Asia has hardly begun. And, on the other hand, Europe 
has inflicted terrible injuries upon Asia in modern times. 2 I do 
not mean to say that the virus of "civilization" would not have 
spread through Asia quite apart from any direct European at- 
tempts to effect such a result quite on the contrary; but it can- 

ity, when there will be no divisions of race, creed, or class, or nationality 
between men, by whatsoever name they may be called, for they will all 
be one in the acknowledgment of their common Brotherhood " (Sir George 
Birdwood, Sva, p. 355). 

1 The ideal of self-determination (sva-raj) for which the Allies claim 
to be fighting. 

2 For example and without the least ill-will the English in India 
who unconsciously created social confusion simply because they could not 
understand what they saw, and endeavoured to fit a co-operative structure 
into the categories of modern political theory. 


not be denied that those who have been the unconscious instru- 
ments of the degradation of Asiatic society from the basis of 
dharma to the basis of contract have incurred a debt. 

The "clear air" of Asia is not merely a dream of the past. 
There is idealism, and there are idealists in modern India, even 
amongst those who have been corrupted by half a century of 
squalid education. We are not all deceived by the illusion of 
progress, but, like some of our European colleagues, desire "the ' 
coming of better conditions of life, when the whole world will 
again learn that the object of human life is not to waste it in a 
feverish anxiety and race after physical objects and comforts, 
but to use it in developing the mental, moral, and spiritual 
powers, latent in man." * The debt, then, of Europe, can best 
be paid and with infinite advantage to herself by seeking the 
co-operation of modern Asia in every adventure of the spirit 
which Europe would essay. It is true that this involves the hard 
surrender of the old idea that it is the mission of the West to 
civilize the East; but that somewhat Teutonic and Imperial view 
of kultur is already discredited. What is needed for the com- 
mon civilization of the world is the recognition of common prob- 
lems, and to co-operate in their solution. If it be asked what i 
inner riches India brings to aid in the realization of a civilization 
of the world, then, from the Indian standpoint, the answer must 
be found in her religions and her philosophy, and her constant 
application of abstract theory to practical life. 

1 S. C. Basil. The Daily Practice of the Hindus, 2nd ed., p. 4. 



The earliest Indian art of which we have any information or 
concerning which we are able to draw reasonably certain infer- 
ences, we may designate as Vedic, since we can hardly undertake 
here the discussion of the perhaps contemporary culture of the 
early Dravidians. Vedic art was essentially practical. About 
painting and sculpture we have no knowledge, but the carpenter, 
metal-worker and potter and weaver efficiently provided for man's 
material requirements. If their work was decorated, we may be 
sure that its 'ornament' had often, and perhaps always, a magical 
and protective significance. The ends of poetry were also prac- 
tical. The Vedic hymns were designed to persuade the gods to 
deal generously with men: 

"As birds extend their sheltering wings, 
Spread your protection over us." 


Much of this poetry is descriptive; it is nature-poetry in the 
sense that it deals with natural phenomena. Its most poetical 
quality is its sense of wonder and admiration, but it is not lyrical 
in any other sense. It has no tragic or reflective elements, except 
in some of the later hymns, and there is no question of 'aesthetic 
contemplation/ for the conception of the sympathetic con- 
stantly prevails. The poet sometimes comments on his own 
work, which he compares to a car well-built by a deft craftsman, 
or to fair and well-woven garments, or to a bride adorned for her 
lover; and this art it was that made the hymns acceptable to 
the gods to whom they were addressed. Vedic Esthetic consisted 
essentially in the appreciation of skill. 

The keynote of the age of the Upanishads (800 B. c.) and 
Pali Buddhism (500 B. c.) is the search for truth. The ancient 
hymns had become a long-established institution, taken for 
granted; ritual was followed solely for the sake of advantage 
in this world or the next. Meanwhile the deeper foundations 


of Indian culture were in process of determination in the mental 
struggle of the 'dwellers in the forest/ The language of the 
Upanishads combines austerity with passion, but this passion is 
the exaltation of mental effort, remote from the common life of 
men in the world. Only here and there we find glimpses of the 
later fusion of lyric and religious experience, when, for example, 
in the Brihaddranyaka Upamshad, the bliss of atman-intuition, 
or the intuition of the Self, is compared with the happiness of 
earthly lovers in self-forgetting dalliance. In general, the Upani- 
shads are too much preoccupied with deeper speculations to ex- 
hibit a conscious art, or to discuss the art of their times; in this 
age there is no explicit Esthetic. 

When, however, we consider the Indian way of regarding the 
Vedas as a whole, we shall find implicit in the word 'srut? a very 
important doctrine ; that the Veda is eternal, the sacred books are 
its temporal expression, they have been 'heard/ This is not a 
theory of 'revelation* in the ordinary sense, since the audition 
depends on the qualification of the hearer, not on the will 
and active manifestation of a god. But it is on all fours with 
the later Hindu view which treats the practice of art as a form 
of yoga, and identifies aesthetic emotion with that felt when the 
self perceives the Self. 

In Pali Buddhism generally, an enthusiasm for the truth, 
unsurpassed even in the Upanishads, is combined with monastic 
institutionalism and a rather violent polemic against the joys 
of the world. Beauty and personal love are not merely evanes- 
cent, but are snares to be avoided at all costs; and it is clearly 
indicated that the Early Buddhist ^Esthetic is strictly hedonistic. 
The indications of this point of view are summed up in the fol- 
lowing pages of the Visuddhi Magga : "Living beings on account 
of their love and devotion to the sensations excited by forms and 
the other objects of sense, give high honour to painters, musicians, 
perfumers, cooks, elixir-prescribing physicians, and other like 
persons who furnish us with objects of sense." 

In the Upanishads on the one hand, and in the teachings of 
Buddha on the other, the deepest problems of life were pene- 
trated; the mists of the Vedic dawn had melted in the fire of 
austerity (tapas), and life lay open to man's inspection as a 
thing of which the secret mechanism was no more mysterious. 
We can scarcely exaggerate the sense of triumph with which the 


doctrines of the Atman or Self and the gospel of Buddha per- 
meated Indian society. The immediate result of the acceptance 
of these views appeared in an organized and deliberate endeavour 
- to create a form of society adapted for the fulfilment of the 
purposes of life as seen in the light of the new philosophies. To 
the ideal of the saint in retirement was very soon added that of 
the man who remains in the world and yet acquires or possesses 
the highest wisdom "It was with works that Janaka and others 
came unto adeptship" (Glta, iii. 20). There was now also evolved 
the doctrine of union by action (karma-yoga) set forth in the 
Bhagavad Glta, as leading even the citizen on the path of sal- 
vation. The emergence of a definitely Brahmanical rather than a 
Buddhist scheme of life is to be attributed to the fact that the 
practical energies of Buddhists were largely absorbed within the 
limits of its monasticism; the Buddhists in the main regard Nir- 
vana not merely as the ultimate, but as the sole object of life. 
But the Brahmans never forgot that this life is the field alike of 
Pursuit and Return. Their scheme of life is set forth at great 
length in the Sutra literature, the Dharma Sastras and the Epics 
(in general, 4th 1st centuries B. c.). 

This literature yields sufficient material for an elucidation of 
the orthodox view of art. But notwithstanding the breadth of 
the fourfold plan, we find in this literature the same hedonistic 
./Esthetic and puritanical applications as are characteristic of Pali 
Buddhism. Thus, Manu forbids the householder to dance or sing 
or play on musical instruments, and reckons architects, actors and 
singers amongst the unworthy men who should not be invited to 
the ceremony of offerings to the dead. Even Chanakya, though 
he tolerates musicians and actors, classes them with courtesans. 
The hedonistic theory still prevailed. In later times the 'defence* 
of any art, such as poetry or drama, was characteristically based 
on the fact that it could contribute to the achievement of all or 
any of the Four Aims of Life. 

Meanwhile the stimulus of discovered truth led not only to 
this austere formulation of a scheme of life (typically in Manu), 
but also to the development of yoga as a practice for the attain- 
ment of the desired end ; and in this development an almost equal 
part was taken by Brahmans and Buddhists (typically in Patafi- 
jali and Nagarjuna). 

We shall digress here, and partially anticipate, to discuss briefly 


the important part once played in Indian thought by the 
concept of Art as Yoga, a subject sufficient in itself for a 
whole volume. It will be remembered that the purpose of 
Yoga is mental concentration, carried so far as the overlooking of 
jail distinction between the subject and the object of contempla- 
tion ; a means of achieving harmony or unity of consciousness. 

It was soon recognized that the concentration of the artist was 
of this very nature ; and we find such texts as ukracharya's : 

"Let the imager establish images in temples by meditation on 
the deities who are the objects of his devotion. For the successful 
achievement of this yoga the lineaments of the image are 
described in books to be dwelt upon in detail. In no other way, 
not even by direct and immediate vision of an actual object, is it 
possible to be so absorbed in contemplation, as thus in the making 
of images." 

The manner in which even the lesser crafts constitute a practice 
(dchdrya) analogous to that of (samprajnata) yoga is indicated 
incidentally by Sankaracharya in the commentary on the Brahma 
Sutra, 3, 2, 10. The subject of discussion is the distinction of 
swoon from waking ; in swoon the senses no longer perceive their 
objects. ankaracharya remarks, "True, the arrow-maker per- 
ceives nothing beyond his work when he is buried in it; but he 
has nevertheless consciousness and control over his body, both 
of which are absent in the fainting person." The arrow-maker 
seems to have afforded, indeed, a proverbial instance of single- 
minded attention, as we read in the Bhagavata Purana. 

"I have learned concentration from the maker of arrows." 

A connection between dream and art is recognized in a passage 
of the Agni Purana^ where the imager is instructed, on the night 
before beginning his work, and after ceremonial purification, to 
pray, "O thou Lord of all the gods, teach me in dreams how to 
carry out all the work I have in my mind." Here again we see 
an anticipation of modern views, which associate myth and dream 
and art as essentially similar and representing the dramatisation 
of man's innermost hopes and fears. 

The practise of visualisation, referred to by Sukracharya, is 
identical in worship and in art. The worshipper recites the 

1 Agni Purana, ch. xliii. Cf. Patanjali, Yoga Sutra, 1, 38. For the theory 
of dreams see also Katha Upanishad, v. 8, and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 
iv. 3, 9-14 and 16-18. 


dhyana mantram describing the deity, and forms a corresponding 
mental picture, and it is then to this imagined form that his 
prayers are addressed and the offerings are made. The artist 
follows identical prescriptions, but proceeds to represent the 
mental picture in a visible and objective form, by drawing or 
modelling. Thus, to take an example from Buddhist sources: 1 

The artist (sddhaka, mantrin, or yogin, as he is variously and 
significantly called), after ceremonial purification, is to proceed 
to a solitary place. There he is to perform the "Sevenfold 
Office," beginning with the invocation of the hosts of Buddhas 
and Bodhisattvas, and the offering to them of real or imaginary 
flowers. Then he must realize in thought the four infinite moods 
of friendliness, compassion, sympathy, and impartiality. Then 
he must meditate upon the emptiness (sunyata) or non-existence 
of all things, for "by the fire of the idea of the abyss, it is said, 
there are destroyed beyond recovery the five factors" of ego- 
consciousness. 2 Then only should he invoke the desired divinity 
by the utterance of the appropriate seed- word (bija) and should 
identify himself completely with the divinity to be represented. 
Then finally on pronouncing the dhyana mantram, in which the 
attributes are defined, the divinity appears visibly, "like a reflec- 
tion," or "as in a dream" and this brilliant image is the artist's 

This ritual is perhaps unduly elaborated, but in essentials it 
shows a clear understanding of the psychology of the imagina- 
tidn. These essentials are the setting aside the transformations 
of the thinking principle 3 ; self -identification with the object of 

1 Condensed from Foucher. Iconographie Bouddhique, 11, 8-11. 

2 Similar views are met with again and again in modern aesthetic. 
Goethe perceived that he who attains to the vision of beauty is from 
himself set free : Riciotto Canudo remarks that the secret of all art is self- 
f orgetf ulness : and Laurence Binyon that "we too should make ourselves 
empty, that the great soul of the universe may fill us with its breath 
(Ideas of Design in East and West, Atlantic Monthly, 1913). 

3 Wagner speaks of " an internal sense which becomes clear and active 
when all the others, directed outward, sleep or dream" (Combarieu, Music, 
its Laws and Evolution, p. 63). That God is the actual theme of all art 
is suggested by Sankaracharya in the commentary on the Brahma Sutra, 
i, i, 20-21. where he indicates the Brahman as the real theme of secular 
as well as spiritual songs : and according to Behmen, "It is nought indeed 
but thine own hearing and willing that do hinder thee, so that thou dost not 
see and hear God (Dialogues on the Super sensual Life.) 


the work; 1 and vividness of the final image. 2 

There are abundant literary parallels for this conception of art 
as yoga. Thus Valmiki, although he was already familiar with 
the story of Rama, before composing his own Ramdyana sought 
to realize it more profoundly, and "seating himself with his face 
towards the East A and sipping water according to rule (i. e. cere- 
monial purification), he set himself to yoga-contemplation of his 
theme. By virtue of his yoga-power he clearly saw before him 
Rama, Lakshmana and Sita, and Dasaratha, together with his 
wives, in his kingdom laughing, talking, acting and moving as if 
in real life ... by yoga-power that righteous one beheld all that 
had come to pass, and all that was to come to pass in the future, 
like a nelli fruit 3 on the palm of his hand. And having truly seen 
all by virtue of his concentration, the generous sage began the 
setting forth of the history of Rama." * 

Notice here particularly that the work of art is completed 
before the work of transcription or representation is begun. 5 
"The mind of the sage," says Chuang Tzu, "being in repose, be- 
comes the mirror of the universe, the speculum of all creation." 
Croce is entirely correct when he speaks of "the artist, who 
never makes a stroke with his brush without having previously 
seen it with his imagination" and remarks that the externalisation 
of a work of art "implies a vigilant will, which persists in not 
allowing certain visions, intuitions, or representations to be lost." 6 

1 Cf . the phrase "Devam bhutva, devam yajet" : to worship the god 
become the god. That which remains for us object, remains unknown. 

2 He who does not imagine in stronger and better lineaments," said 
Blake, "and in stronger and better light than his perishing mortal eye can 
see, does not imagine at all." 

3 Phyllanthus emblica, the round fruit of which is about the size of 
an ordinary marble. The simile is a common Indian formula for clear 

4 Ramayana, Balakandam, 

8 Cf . Coomaraswamy and Duggirala, The Mirror of Gesture, Introduc- 
tion, p. 3. So Vasubandhu speaks of the poet as seeing the world, like 
a jujube fruit, lying within the hollow of his hands (Vasavadatta, invo- 
cation.) "It seems to me/' William Morris wrote, "that no hour of the 
day passes that the whole world does not show itself to me": and Mag- 
nusson records of him, referring to Sigurd the Volsung and other poems, 
that "in each case the subject matter had taken such a clearly definite 
shape in his mind, as he told me, that it only remained to write it down." 

6 Croce, Aesthetic, pp. 162. 168. 


It should be understood that yoga ('union') is not merely a 
mental exercise or a religious discipline, but the most practical 
preparation for any undertaking whatever. Hanuman, for ex- 
ample, before searching the Asoka grove for Sita, "prayed to the 
gods and ranged the forest in imagination till be found her" ; 
then only did he spring from the walls of Lanka, like an arrow 
from a bow, and enter the grove in the flesh. Throughout the 
East, wherever Hindu or Buddhist thought have deeply pene- 
trated, it is firmly believed that all knowledge is directly accessible 
to the concentred and 'one-pointed' mind, without the direct 
intervention of the senses. Probably all inventors, artists and 
mathematicians are more or less aware of this as a matter of 
personal experience. In the language of psycho-analysis, this 
concentration preparatory to undertaking a specific task is "the 
willed introversion of a creative mind, which, retreating before 
its own problem and inwardly collecting its forces, dips at least 
for a moment into the source of life, in order there to wrest 
a little more strength from the mother for the completion of its 
work," and the result of this reunion is "a fountain of youth and 
new fertility." 1 

We have spoken so far of yoga, but for the artist this was 
rather a means than an end. Just as in Mediaeval Europe, so too, 
and perhaps even more conspicuously in India, the impulse to 
iconolatry derived from the spirit of adoration the loving and 
passionate devotion to a personal divinity, which we know as 
bhakti. Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutra, mentions the Lord only as 
one amongst other suitable objects of contemplation, and without 
the use of any image being implied ; but the purpose of the lover 
is precisely to establish a personal relation with the Beloved, 
and the plastic symbol is created for this end. A purely ab- 
stract philosophy or a psychology like that of Early Bud- 
dhism does not demand aesthetic expression; it was the spirit 
of worship which built upon the foundations of Buddhist and 
Vedantic thought the mansions of Indian religion, which shelter 
all those whom purely intellectual formulae could not satisfy 
the children of this world who will not hurry along the path of 
Release, and the mystics who find a foretaste of freedom in the 
love of every cloud in the sky and flower at their feet. 

1 Jung, Psychology of the Unconscious, pp. 330, 336. 



Figure a. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. Buddhist bronze. Ceylon, 8th Century. 
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

Figure b. Siva and Parvati on Mt. Kailasa. Brahmanical stone sculpture, Elura, 


This was indeed a return to superstition, or at any rate to 
duality ; but what in this world is not a dream and a superstition ? 
certainly not the atoms of science. And for all those who are 
not yet idealists there are, as there must be, idols provided. The 
superstitions of Hinduism, like those of Christianity, accom- 
lished more for the hearts of men than those of modern material- 
ism. It may well be doubted if art and idolatry, idolatry and art, 
are not inseparable. 1 

Let us observe here that the purpose of the imager was neither 
self-expression nor the realisatiorTof beauiy. He did not choose 
"his own problems, but like the Gothic sculptor, obeyed a hieratic 
canon. 2 He did not regard his own or his fellows' work from the 
^standpoint of connoisseurship or aestheticism not, that is to say, 
from the standpoint of the philosopher, or aesthete, but from that 
of a pious artisan. To him the theme was all in all, and if there is 
beauty in his work, this did not arise from aesthetic intention, 3 
Eutjromji state of mind which found unconscious expression. In 
every epoch of great and creative art we observe an identical phe- 
nomenon the artist is preoccupied with his theme. It is only in 
looking backward, and as philosophers rather than artists or if 
we are also artists, a rare combination, then with the philosophic 
and not the aesthetic side of our minds that we perceive that 
the quality of beauty in a work of art is really quite independent 
of its theme. Then we are apt to forget that beauty has never 
been reached except through the necessity that was felt to deal 
with the particular subject. We sit down to paint a beautiful 
picture, or stand up to dance, and having nothing in us that we 
feel must be said and said clearly at all costs, we are surprised 
that the result is insipid and lacks conviction ; the subject may be 

1 " The lineaments of images," says Sukracharya, "are determined by 
the relation which subsists between the adorer and the Adored." Cf. the 
Saiva invocation "Thou that dost take the forms imagined by thy wor- 

2 We cannot assert this too strongly of orthodox or classic (sastriya) 
Hindu art. Rajput painting is more romantic, but even there the theme 
is pre-determined in literature, and the pictures, though they are not 
illustrations in the representative sense of the word, are pictures for 
verses just as much as the Ajanta paintings or the reliefs of Borobodur. 

3 " Even the misshapen image of a god," says Sukracharya, " is to be 
preferred to the image of a man, however charming": in full accord 
with our modern view, that prefers conviction to prettiness. 


lovely, the dancer may be ravishing, but the picture and the dance 
are not rasavant. The theory of beauty is a matter for philosoph- 
ers, and artists strive to demonstrate it at their own risk. 

The Indian imager was concerned with his own problem. It is in- 
teresting to see the kind of man he was expected to be. According 
to one of the Silpa Sastras "The Silpan (artificer) should under- 
stand the Atharva Veda, the thirty-two Silpa Sastras, and the 
Vedic mantras by which the deities are invoked. He should be 
one who wears a sacred thread, a necklace of holy beads, and a 
ring of kusa grass on his finger ; delighting in the worship of God, 
faithful to his wife, avoiding strange women, piously acquiring a 
knowledge of various sciences, such a one is indeed a crafts- 
man." 1 Elsewhere it is said "the painter must be a good man, no 
sluggard, not given to anger; holy, learned, self -controlled, devout 
and charitable, such should be his character/' 2 It is added that 
he should work in solitude, or when another artist is present, 
never before a layman. 

In this connection it is very important to realize that the artisan 
or artist possessed an assured status in the form of a life contract, 
or rather an hereditary office. He was trained from childhood as 
his father's disciple, and followed his father's calling as a matter 
of course. He was member of a guild, and the guilds were 
recognized, and protected by the king. The artificer was also 
protected from competition and undercutting; it is said: "That 
any other than a Silpan should build temples, towns, seaports, 
tanks or wells, is comparable to the sin of murder." 3 This was 
guild socialism in a non-competitive society. 4 

The earliest impulses of Indian art appears to have been more 
or less practical and secular, and it is perhaps to this fact that we 
may partly trace the distrust of art exhibited by the early hedo- 

l From a Tamil version of a Silpa Sastra, quoted by Kearns, Indian 
Antiquary, vol. v., 1876. 

2 Griinwedel, Mythologie des Buddhismus, p. 192. Cf . Cezanne. " I 
have never permitted anyone to watch me while I work. I refuse to 
do anything before anyone" (quoted W. H. Wright, Modern Painting, 
p. 152). 

3 Kearns, loc. cit. 

4 The Sociology is discussed more fully in Sir George Birdwood's 
Industrial Arts of India, and Sva. and my Mediaeval Sinhalese Art and 
The Indian Craftsman. 



Figure a. Deer, Mamallapuram, 8th Century. 

Figure b. Elephants, Mamallapuram, 8th Century. 


nists. On the other hand, the dominant motifs governing its 
evolution from the third century B.C. onwards, and up to the 
close of the eighteenth century, are devotion (bhakti) and 
reunion (yoga). Neither of these is peculiar to India, but they 
exhibit there a peculiar character which leaves its mark on every- 
thing Hindu or Buddhist. Let us now follow these traces in a 
very summary reference to actual documents. 

I have discussed in another chapter the beginnings of Buddhist 
art. 1 It is in the southern primitives at Amaravati and Anura- 
dhapura rather than in the semi-Roman figures of the North-west 
that we can best observe the development of an art that is 
distinctively Indian. This is the main stream'; and it is these 
types from which the suave and gracious forms of Gupta sculp- 
ture derive, and these in turn became the models of all Buddhist 
art in China. In India proper, they grow more and more 
mouvemente, more dramatic and vigorous, in the classic art of 
Elura and Elephanta, Mamallapuram and Ceylon, and form the 
basis of the immense developments of colonial Buddhist and 
Hindu art in Java and Cambodia. Gupta and classic painting 
are preserved at Ajanta. 

The tender humanism and the profound nature sympathies 
which are so conspicuous in the painting of Ajanta and the 
sculpture of Mamallapuram are recognizable equally in the work 
of poets like Asvaghosha and Arya Sura and dramatists like 
Kalidasa. Asvaghosha says of Prince Siddhartha that one day as 
he was riding in the country "he saw a piece of land being 
ploughed, with the path of the plough broken like waves of the 

water And regarding the men as they ploughed, their faces 

soiled by the dust, scorched by the sun, and chafed by the wind, 
and their cattle bewildered by the burden of drawing, the All-noble 
One felt the uttermost compassion; and alighting from the back 
of his horse, he passed slowly over the earth, overcome with 
sorrow pondering the birth and destruction proceeding in the 
world, he grieved." Nor can anything be more poignant than 
Santi Deva's expression of his sense of the eternal movement 
and unsubstantiality of life "Who is a kinsman, and who a 

1 The beginnings of Hindu art also go back to the second or third 
century B. C, but apart from a few coins, little or nothing has been pre- 
served of earlier date than the third or fourth century A. D. 


friend, and unto whom?" The literature of love is no less 
remarkable. We recognize here, just as in the painting and 
sculpture^ what is eternal in all art, and universal impassioned 
vision based on understanding, correlated with cloudless thought 
and devoid of sentimentality. There is every reason to believe too 
that this was the time of highest attainment in music. Lastly, 
this was a time of progress in the field of pure science, especially 
mathematics and astronomy. From the fourth to the end of 
the eighth century we must regard as the golden age of Indian 
civilization. This was the period of Wei and T'ang in China; 
Eastern Asia represented then to all intents and purposes the 
civilization of the world. 

After the ninth or tenth century there is a general, though cer- 
tainly not universal, decline in orthodox art, of which the 
formulae were rapidly stereotyped in their main outlines, and 
rendered florid in their detail. Classical Sanskrit literature also 
came to an end in a forest of elaborate embroidery. But great 
forces (sometimes grouped under the designation of the Pau- 
ranic Renaissance) had long been at work preparing the way 
for the emergence of the old cults of Siva and Vishnu in forms 
which gave renewed inspiration to art sculpture and poetry in 
the South, and poetry and painting in the North. In these 
devotional faiths was completed the cycle of Indian spiritual 
evolution from pure philosophy to pure mysticism, from knowl- 
edge to love. The inner and outer life were finally unified a 
development entirely analogous to that of Zen Buddhism in the 
Far East. The transparency of life so clearly expressed in the 
paintings of Ajanta is indicated with a renewed emphasis above 
all in the Radha-Krishna cults and in all the Northern Vaish- 
nava poetry and painting the tradition in which Rabindranath 
Tagore is the latest singer, and of which the theory is plainly set 
forth in his song: 

Not my way of salvation, to surrender the world ! 

Rather for me the taste of Infinite Freedom 

While yet I am bound by a thousand bonds to the wheel . . . 

In each glory of sound and sight and scent 

I shall find Thy infinite joy abiding : 

My passion shall burn as the flame of salvation, 

The flower of my love shall become the ripe fruit of devotion. 



Krishna disguised as a milkmaid. Rajput Painting, 17th Century. Museum of 

Fine Arts, Boston. 


But such a theory is now rather a survival of all that was uni- 
versal in Indian religion, rather than a new point of departure. 
The current ^Esthetic of 'educated' India a product of a wide 
miscomprehension of Western culture and a general surrender 
to Noncomformist ethics is again realistic and hedonistic, and 
perhaps for the first time illustrative, personal, and sentimental. 



We have so far discussed the Hindu view of art mainly from 
the internal evidence of the art itself. There remains, what is 
more exactly pertinent to the title of these chapters, to discuss 
the Hindu ^Esthetic as it is expressly formulated and elaborated 
in the abundant Sanskrit and Hindi literature on Poetics and the 
Drama. We shall find that general conclusions are reached which 
are applicable, not only to literature, but to all arts alike. 

The discussion begins with the Defence of Poesy. This is 
summed up in the statement that it may contribute to the achieve- 
ment of all or any of the Four Ends of Life. A single word 
rightly employed and understood is compared to the 'cow of 
plenty/ yielding every treasure; and the same poem that is of 
material advantage to one, may be of spiritual advantage to an- 
other or upon another occasion. 

The question follows : What is the essential element in poetry ? 
According to some authors this consists in style or figures, or in 
suggestion (yyanjana, to which we shall recur in discussing the 
varieties of poetry). But the greater writers refute these views 
and are agreed that the one essential element in poetry 2 is what 
they term Rasa, or Flavour. With this term, which is the equiva- 
lent of Beauty or ./Esthetic Emotion 3 in the strict sense of the 
philosopher, must be considered the derivative adjective rasavant 

1 Especially Visvanatha in the Sahitya Darpana, ca. 1450 A. D. (trans. 
Bibliotheca Indica, Ballantyne). Also in the Agni Purana, and the 
Vyakti Viveka. 

2 As remarked by W. Rothenstein, "What is written upon a single 
work should enable people to apply clear principles to all works they may 
meet with" (Two Drawings by Hok'sai, 1910). Also Benedetto Croce, 
"laws relating to special branches are not conceivable" (Aesthetic, 
p. 350). 

3 Such words as saundarya and rupa should be translated as loveliness 
or charm. 

No one suggests that metre makes poetry. This error was hardly to 
be expected in a country where even the dryest treatises on law and 
logic are composed in metre. Metrical poetry is padya kavya, prose 
poetry is gadya kavya, but it is rasa that makes them poetry. 


'having rasa/ applied to a work of art, and the derivative sub- 
stantive rasika, one who enjoys rasa, a connoisseur or lover, and 
finally rasasvadana, the tasting of rasa, i. e., aesthetic contempla- 

A whole literature is devoted to the discussion of rasa and the 
conditions of its experience. The theory, as we have remarked, 
is worked out in relation to poetry and drama, especially the 
classic drama of Kalidasa and others. When we consider that 
these plays are essentially secular in subject and sensuous in ex- 
pression, the position arrived at regarding its significance will 
seem all the more remarkable. 

Aesthetic emotion rasa is said to result in the spectator 
rasika though it is not effectively caused, through the operation 
of determinants (yibhava], consequents (anubhava}, moods 
(bhava) and involuntary emotions (sattvabhava) * Thus: 
DETERMINANTS: the aesthetic problem, plot, theme, etc., viz: the 
hero and other characters and the circumstances of time and 
place. In the terminology of Croce these are the "physical 
stimulants to aesthetic reproduction." 
CONSEQUENTS: deliberate manifestations of feeling, as gestures, 


MOODS: transient moods (thirty- three in number) induced in 
the characters by pleasure and pain, e. g., joy, agitation, im- 
patience, etc. Also the permanent (nine), viz: the Erotic, 
Heroic, Odious, Furious, Terrible, Pathetic, Wondrous and 

INVOLUNTARY EMOTIONS: emotional states originating in the 
inner nature; involuntary expressions of emotion such as 
horripilation, trembling, etc. (eight in all). 
In order that a work may be able to evoke rasa one 2 of the 
permanent moods must form a master-motif to which all other 
expressions of emotion are subordinate. 3 That is to say, the 
first essential of a rasavant work is unity 

As a king to his subjects, as a guru to his disciples, 
Even so the master-motif is lord of all other motifs. 4 

1 Dhanamjaya, Dasarupa, iv. 1. 

2 Or any two rasas combined. 

3 Dasarupa, iv, 46. 

4 Bharata, Natya Sastra, 7, 8. 


If, on the contrary, a transient emotion is made the motif of 
the whole work, this "extended development of a transient emo- 
tion tends to the absence of rasa," 1 or as we should now say, the 
work becomes sentimental. Pretty art which emphasizes passing 
feelings and personal emotion is neither beautiful nor true: it 
tells us of meeting again in heaven, it confuses time and eternity, 
loveliness and beauty, partiality and love. 

Let us remark in passing that while the nine permanent moods 
correspond to an identical classification of rasas or flavours as 
nine in number, the rasa of which we speak here is an absolute, 
and distinct from any one of these. The 'nine rasas 'are no more 
than the various colourings of one experience, and are arbitrary 
terms of rhetoric used only for convenience in classification : just 
as we speak of poetry categorically as lyric, epic, dramatic, etc., 
without implying that poetry is anything but poetry. Rasa is 
tasted beauty is felt only by empathy, 'einfuhlung' (sadhar- 
ana) ; that is to say by entering into, feeling, the permanent motif; 
but it is not the same as the permanent motif itself, for, from this 
point of view, it matters not with which of the permanent motifs 
we have to do. 

It is just here that we see how far Hindu Aesthetic had now 
departed from its once practical and hedonistic character: the 
Dasarupa declares plainly that Beauty is absolutely independent 
of the sympathetic "Delightful or disgusting, exalted or lowly, 
cruel or kindly, obscure or refined, (actual) or imaginary, there 
is no subject that cannot evoke rasa in man." 

Of course, a work of art may and often does afford us at the 
same time pleasure in a sensuous or moral way, but this sort of 
pleasure is derived directly from its material qualities, such as 
tone or texture, assonance, etc., or the ethical peculiarity of its 
theme, and not from its aesthetic qualities : the aesthetic experience 
is independent of this, and may even, as Dhanamjaya says, be 
derived in spite of sensuous or moral displeasure. 

Incidentally we may observe that the fear of art which prevails 

1 Dasarupa, iv. 45. 

Blake, too, says that "Knowledge of Ideal Beauty is not to be acquired. 
It is born with us." And as P'u Sung-ling remarks : "Each interprets in 
his own way the music of heaven; and whether it be discord or not, 
depends upon antecedent causes" (Giles, Strange Stories from a Chinese 
Studio, p. xvii). 


amongst Puritans arises partly from the failure to recognize that 
aesthetic experience does not depend on pleasure or pain at all: 
and when this is not the immediate difficulty, then from the dis- 
trust of any experience which is "beyond good and evil" and so 
devoid of a definitely moral purpose. 

The tasting of rasa the vision of beauty is enjoyed, says 
Visvanatha, "only by those who are competent thereto" : and he 
quotes Dharmadatta to the effect that "those devoid of imagina- 
tion, in the theatre, are but as the wood-work, the walls, and the 
stones." It is a matter of common experience that it is possible 
for a man to devote a whole life time to the study of art, without 
having once experienced aesthetic emotion : "historical research" 
as Croce expresses it, "directed to illumine a work of art by plac- 
ing us in a position to judge it, does not alone suffice to bring it 
to birth in our spirit," for "pictures, poetry, and every work of art 
produce no effect save on souls prepared to receive them." Vis- 
vanatha comments very pertinently on this fact when he says that 
"even some of the most eager students of poetry are seen not to 
have a right perception of rasa." The capacity and genius nec- 
essary for appreciation are partly native ('ancient') and partly 
cultivated ('contemporary') : but cultivation alone is useless, and 
if the poet is born, so too is the rasika, and criticism is akin to 

Indian theory is very clear that instruction is not the purpose 
of art. On this point Dhanamjaya is sufficiently sarcastic : 

"As for any simple man of little intelligence," he writes, "who 
says that from dramas, which distil joy, the gain is knowledge 
only, as in the case of history and the like (mere statement, nar- 
rative, or illustration) homage to him, for he has averted his 
face from what is delightful." 1 

The spectator's appreciation of beauty depends on the effort 
of his own imagination, "just as in the case of children playing 
with clay elephants." 2 Thus, technical elaboration (realism) in 
art is not by itself the cause of rasa: as remarked by Rabindra- 

1 Dasarupa, 1, 6. 

*Dasarupa, IV. 50. Cf. Goethe, "He who would work for the 
stage . . . should leave Nature in her proper place and take careful 
heed not to have recourse to anything but what may be performed by 
children with puppets upon boards and laths, together with sheets of 
cardboard and linen" quoted in 'The Mask,' Vol. v. p. 3. 


nath Tagore "in our country, those of the audience who are 
appreciative, are content to perfect the song in their own mind 
by the force of their own feeling." 1 This is not very different 
from what is said by Sukracharya with reference to images : "the 
defects of images are constantly destroyed by the power of the 
virtue of the worshipper who has his heart always set on God." 
If this attitude seems to us dangerously uncritical, that is to say 
dangerous to art, or rather to accomplishment, let us remember 
that it prevailed everywhere in all periods of great creative activ- 
ity : and that the decline of art has always followed the decline of 
love and faith. 

Tolerance of an imperfect work of art may arise in two ways : 
the one uncritical, powerfully swayed by the sympathetic, and too 
easily satisfied with a very inadequate correspondence between 
content and form, the other creative, very little swayed by con- 
siderations of charm, and able by force of true imagination to 
complete the correspondence of content and form which is not 
achieved or not preserved in the original. Uncritical tolerance is 
content with prettiness or edification, and recoils from beauty 
that is 'difficult': creative tolerance is indifferent to prettiness 
or edification, and is able from a mere suggestion, such as an 
awkward 'primitive' or a broken fragment, to create or recreate 
a perfect experience. 

"Also, "the permanent motif becomes rasa through the rasika's 
own capacity for being delighted not from the character of the 
hero to be imitated, nor because the work aims at the production 
of aesthetic emotion." 2 How many works which have "aimed at 
the production of aesthetic emotion," that is to say, which were 
intended to be beautiful, have failed of their purpose ! 

The degrees of excellence in poetry are discusesd in the Kavya 
Prakasa and the Sahitya Darpana. The best is where there is 
a deeper significance than that of the literal sense. In minor 
poetry the sense overpowers the suggestion. In inferior poetry, 
significantly described as 'variegated* or 'romantic* (chitra), the 
only artistic quality consists in the ornamentation of the literal 
sense, which conveys no suggestion beyond its face meaning. 
Thus narrative and descriptive verse take a low place, just as 
portraiture does in plastic art : and, indeed, the Sahitya Darpana 

1 Jiban-smriti, pp. 134-5. 

2 Dasarupa, iv., 47. 


excludes the last kind of poetry altogether. It is to be observed 
that the kind of suggestion meant is something more than implica- 
tion or double entendre: in the first case we have to do with mere 
abbreviation, comparable with the use of the words et cetera, in 
the second we have a mere play on words. What is understood 
to be suggested is one of the nine rasas. 

It is worth noting that we have here a departure from, and I 
' think, an improvement on Croce's definition 'expression is art.' 
A mere statement, however, completely expressive, such as: 
"The man walks," or (a+b) 2 = a*+2ab+b 2 , is not art. Poetry 
is indeed a kind of sentence 1 : but what kind of sentence?" A 
sentence ensouled by rasa, 2 i. e., in which one of the nine rasas 
is implied or suggested: and the savouring of this flavour, ras- 
asvadana, through empathy, by those possessing the necessary sen- 
sibility is the condition of beauty. 

What then are rasa and rasasvadana, beauty and aesthetic emo- 
tion ? The nature of this experience is discussed by Visvanatha in 
the Sahitya Darpana 3 : "It is pure, indivisible, self -manifested, 
compounded equally of joy and consciousness, free of admixture 
with any other perception, the very twin brother of mystic experi- 
ence (Brahmdsvddana sahodarah), and the very life of it is 
supersensuous (lokottara) wonder." 4 Further, "It is enjoyed 
by those who are competent thereto, in identity, 5 just as the form 
of God is itself the joy with which it is recognized." 

For that very reason it cannot be an object of knowledge, its 
perception being indivisible from its very existence. Apart from 
perception it does not exist. It is not on that account to be 
regarded as eternal in time or as interrupted: it is timeless. It 
is again, supersensuous, hyperphysical (alaukika), and the only 
^proof of its reality is to be found in experience 6 

Religion and art are thus names for one and the same experi- 

1 The likeness of aesthetic to linguistic is indicated in Dasarftpa, iv. 46. 

2 Vdkyam rasatmakam vacakam Sahitya Darpana, 3. 
3 vv. 33. 51, 53. 54. 

4 Wonder is defined as a kind of expanding of the mind in 'admiration.' 

5 The expression rasasvadana is fictitious, because rasasvadana is rasa, 
and vice versa. In aesthetic contemplation, as in perfect worship, there 
is identity of subject and object, cause and effect. 

6 The rasika is therefore unable to convince the Philistine by argu- 
ment: he can but say, Taste and see that it is good for I know in what 
I have believed. 


ence an intuition of reality and of identity. This is not, of 
course, exclusively a Hindu view: it has been expounded by 
many others, such as the Neo-platonists, Hsieh Ho, Goethe, Blake, 
Schopenhauer and Schiller. Nor is it refuted by Croce. It has 
been recently restated as follows : 

"In those moments of exaltation that art can give, it is easy to 
believe that we have been possessed by an emotion that comes 
from the world of reality. Those who take this view will have 
to say that there is in all things the stuff out of which art is made 
reality. The peculiarity of the artist would seem to be that he 
possesses the power of surely and frequently seizing reality 
(generally behind pure form), and the power of expressing his 
sense of it, in pure form always i" 1 

Here pure form means form not clogged with unsesthetic mat- 
ter such as associations. 

It will be seen that this view is monistic: the doctrine of the 
universal presence of reality is that of the immanence of the Abso- 
lute. It is inconsistent with a view of the world as absolute maya, 
or utterly unreal, but it implies that through the false world of 
everyday experience may be seen by those of penetrating vision 
(artists, lovers and philosophers) glimpses of the real substrate. 
This world is the formless as we perceive it, the unknowable as 
we know it. 

Precisely as love is reality experienced by the lover, and truth 
is reality as experienced by the philosopher, so beauty is reality 
as experienced by the artist: and these are three phases of the 
Absolute. But it is only through the objective work of art that 
the artist is able to communicate his experience, and for this 
purpose any theme proper to himself will serve, since the Abso- 
lute is manifested equally in the little and the great, animate and 
inanimate, good and evil. 

We have seen that the world of Beauty, like the Absolute, 
cannot be known objectively. Can we then reach this world by 
rejecting objects, by a deliberate purification of art from all asso- 
ciations? We have already seen, however, that the mere intention 
to create beauty is not sufficient: there must exist an object of 
devotion. Without a point of departure there can be no flight 
and no attainment: here also "one does not attain to perfection \ 

1 Clive Bell. Art, p. 54. 


by mere renunciation." 2 We can no more achieve Beauty than 
we can find Release by turning our backs on the world: we 
cannot find our way by a mere denial of things, but only in 
learning to see those things as they really are, infinite or beau- 
tiful. The artist reveals this beauty wherever the mind attaches 
itself: and the mind attaches itself, not directly to the Absolute, 
but to objects of choice. 

Thus we return to the earth. If we supposed we should find 
the object of search elsewhere, we were mistaken. The two 
worlds, of spirit and matter, Purusha and Prakriti, are one : and 
this is as clear to the artist as it is to the lover or the philosopher. 
Those Philistines to whom it is not so apparent, we should speak 
of as materialists or as nihilists exclusive monists, to whom the 
report of the senses is either all in all, or nothing at all. The 
theory of rasa set forth according to Visvanatha and other aesthe- 
ticians, belongs to totalistic monism ; it marches with the Vedanta. 
In a country like India, where thought is typically consistent with 
itself, this is no more than we had a right to expect. 

z Bhagavad Gita. 111. 14. 


It is very generally held that natural objects such as human 
beings, animals or landscapes, and artificial objects such as fac- 
tories, textiles or works of intentional art, can be classified as 
beautiful or ugly. And yet no general principle of classification 
has ever been found: and that which seems to be beautiful to 
one is described as ugly by another. In the words of Plato 
"Everyone chooses his love out of the objects of beauty accord- 
ing to his own taste." 

To take, for example, the human type: every race, and to 
some extent every individual, has an unique ideal. Nor can we 
hope for a final agreement : we cannot expect the European to pre- 
fer the Mongolian features, nor the Mongolian the European. Of 
course, it is very easy for each to maintain the absolute value of 
his own taste and to speak of other types as ugly; just as the 
hero of chivalry maintains by force of arms that his own beloved 
is far more beautiful than any other. In like manner the various 
sects maintain the absolute value of their own ethics. But it is 
clear that such claims are nothing more than statements of preju- 
dice, for who is to decide which racial ideal or which morality is 
"best" ? It is a little too easy to decide that our own is best ; we 
are at the most entitled to believe it the best for us. This rela- 
tivity is nowhere better suggested than in the classic saying attrib- 
uted to Majnun, when it was pointed out to him that the world 
at large regarded his Laila as far from beautiful. "To see the 
beauty of Laila/' he said, "requires the eyes of Majnun." 

It is the same with works of art. Different artists are inspired 
by different objects ; what is attractive and stimulating to one is 
depressing and unattractive to another, and the choice also varies 
from race to race and epoch to epoch. As to the appreciation of 
such works, it is the same ; for men in general admire only such 
works as by education or temperament they are predisposed to 
admire. To enter into the spirit of an unfamiliar art demands a 
greater effort than most are willing to make. The classic scholar 
starts convinced that the art of Greece has never been equalled 
or surpassed, and never will be; there are many who think, like 
Michelangelo, that because Italian painting is good, therefore 


good painting is Italian. There are many who never yet felt the 
beauty of Egyptian sculpture or Chinese or Indian painting or 
music: that they have also the hardihood to deny their beauty, 
however, proves nothing. 

It is also possible to forget that certain works are beautiful: 
the eighteenth century had thus forgotten the beauty of Gothic 
sculpture and primitive Italian painting, and the memory of their 
beauty was only restored by a great effort in the course of the 
nineteenth. There may also exist natural objects or works of 
art which humanity only very slowly learns to regard as in any 
way beautiful; the western aesthetic appreciation of desert and 
mountain scenery, for example, is no older than the nineteenth 
century; and it is notorious that artists of the highest rank are 
often not understood till long after their death. So that the more 
we consider the variety of human election, the more we must 
admit the relativity of taste. 

And yet there remain philosophers firmly convinced that an 
absolute Beauty (rasa)* exists, just as others maintain the con- 
ceptions of absolute Goodness and absolute Truth. The lovers 
of God identify these absolutes with Him (or It) and maintain 
that He can only be known as perfect Beauty, Love and 
Truth. It is also widely held that the true critic (rasika) is able 
to decide which works of art are beautiful (rasavant) and which 
are not ; or in simpler words, to distinguish works of genuine art 
from those that have no claim to be so described. At the same 
time we must admit the relativity of taste, and the fact that all 
gods (devas and Isvaras) are modelled after the likeness of men. 

It remains, then, to resolve the seeming contradictions. This 
is only to be accomplished by the use of more exact terminology. 
So far have I spoken of 'beauty' without defining my meaning, 
and have used one word to express a multiplicity of ideas. But 
we do not mean the same thing when we speak of a beautiful girl 
and a beautiful poem; it will be still more obvious that we mean 
two different things, if we speak of beautiful weather and a beauti- \ 
ful picture. In point of fact, the conception of beauty and the ad- 
jective "beautiful" belong exclusively to aesthetic and should only 
be used in aesthetic judgment. We seldom make any such judg- 
ments when we speak of natural objects as beautiful; we gen- 

1 Rasa, rasavant and rasika are the principal terms of Indian aesthetics, 
explained in the preceding chapter. 


erally mean that such objects as we call beautiful are congenial 
to us, practically or ethically. Too often we pretend to judge a 
work of art in the same way, calling it beautiful if it represents 
some form or activity of which we heartily approve, or if it 
attracts us by the tenderness or gaiety of its colour, the sweet- 
ness of its sounds or the charm of its movement. But when we 
thus pass judgment on the dance in accordance with our sympa- 
thetic attitude towards the dancer's charm or skill, or the mean- 
ing of the dance, we ought not to use the language of pure 
aesthetic. Only when we judge a work of art aesthetically may 
we speak of the presence or absence of beauty, we may call the 
work rasavant or otherwise; but when we judge it from the 
standpoint of activity, practical or ethical, we ought to use a 
corresponding terminology, calling the picture, song or actor 
"lovely," that is to say lovable, or otherwise, the action "noble," 
the colour "brilliant," the gesture "graceful," or otherwise, and 
so forth. And it will be seen that in doing this we are not really 
judging the work of art as such, but only the material and the 
separate parts of which it is made, the activities they represent, 
or the feelings they express. 

Of course, when we come to choose such works of art to live 
with, there is no reason why we should not allow the sympathetic 
and ethical considerations to influence our judgment. Why should 
the ascetic invite annoyance by hanging in his cell some repre- 
sentation of the nude, or the general select a lullaby to be per- 
formed upon the eve of battle? When every ascetic and every 
soldier has become an artist there will be no more need for works 
of art : in the meanwhile ethical selection of some kind is allow- 
able and necessary. But in this selection we must clearly under- 
stand what we are doing, if we would avoid an infinity of error, 
culminating in that type of sentimentality which regards the 
useful, the stimulating and the moral elements in works of art as 
the essential. We ought not to forget that he who plays the 
villain of the piece may be a greater artist than he who plays the 
^ hero. For beauty in the profound words of Millet does not 
arise from, the subject of a work of art, but from the necessity 
that has been felt of representing that subject. 

We should only speak of a work of art as good or bad with 
reference to its aesthetic quality; only the subject and the material 
of the work are entangled in relativity. In other words, to say 



Ajanta fresco: right, Bodhisattva; left, coronation. 

or 7th Century. 

Buddhist Painting of 6th 


that a work of art is more or less beautiful, or rasavant, is to 
define the extent to which it is a work of art, rather than a mere 
illustration. However important the element of sympathetic 
magic in such a work may be, however important its practical 
applications, it is not in these that its beauty consists. 

What, then, is Beauty, what is rasa, what is it that entitles us 
to speak of divers works as beautiful or rasavant? What is this 
sole quality which the most dissimilar works of art possess in 
common? Let us recall the history of a work of art. There is 
(1) an aesthetic intuition on the part of the original artist, the 
poet or creator; then (2) the internal expression of this intuition, 
the true creation or vision of beauty, (3) the indication of this 
by external signs (language) for the purpose of communication, 
the technical activity ; and finally, (4) the resulting stimulation 
of the critic or raslka to reproduction of the original intuition, or 
of some approximation to it. 

The source of the original intuition may, as we have seen, be 
any aspect of life whatsoever. To one creator the scales of a fish 
suggest a rhythmical design, another is moved by certain land- 
scapes, a third elects to speak of hovels, a fourth to sing of 
palaces, a fifth may express the idea that all things are enlinked, 
enlaced and enamoured in terms of the General Dance, or he may 
express the same idea equally vividly by saying that "not a spar- 
, row falls to the ground without our Father's knowledge." Every 
artist discovers beauty, and every critic finds it again when he 
tastes of the same experience through the medium of the external 
, signs. But where is this beauty? We have seen that it cannot 
1 be said to exist in certain things and not in others. It may then 
be claimed that beauty exists everywhere ; and this I do not deny, 
though I prefer the clearer statement that it may be discovered 
anywhere. If it could be said to exist everywhere in a material 
and intrinsic sense, we could pursue it with our cameras and 
scales, after the fashion of the experimental psychologists: but 
if we did so, we should only achieve a certain acquaintance with 
average taste we should not discover a means of distinguishing 
forms that are beautiful from forms that are ugly. Beauty can 
never thus be measured, for it does not exist apart from the artist 
himself, and the rasika who enters into his experience. 1 

1 Cf. "The secret of art lies in the artist himself" Kuo Jo Hsu, (12th 
century), quoted in The Kokka. No. 244. 


All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it. 

Did you think it was in the white or grey stone? or the lines of the 

arches and cornices ? 
All music is what awakes in you when you are reminded of it by the 

It is not the violins and the cornets . . . nor the score of the baritone 

It is nearer and further than they. 1 

When every sympathetic consideration has been excluded, how- 
ever, there still remains a pragmatic value in the classification 
of works of art as beautiful or ugly. But what precisely do we 
mean by these designations as applied to objects? In the works 
called beautiful we recognize a correspondence of theme and ex- 
pression, content and form: while in those called ugly we find 
the content and form at variance. In time and space, however, 
the correspondence never amounts to an identity: it is our own 
activity, in the presence of the work of art, which completes the 
ideal relation, and it is in this sense that beauty is what we "do 
to" a work of art rather than a quality present in the object. 
With reference to the object, then "more" or "less" beautiful 
will imply a greater or less correspondence between content and 
form, and this is all that we can say of the object as such: or 
in other words, art is good that is good of its kind. In the 
stricter sense of completed internal cesthetic activity, however, 
beauty is absolute and cannot have degrees. 

The vision of beauty is spontaneous, in just the same sense 
as the inward light of the lover (bhakta). It is a state of grace 
that cannot be achieved by deliberate effort; though perhaps we 
can remove hindrances to its manifestation, for there are many 
witnesses that the secret of all art is to be found in self-forget- 
f ulness. 2 And we know that this state of grace is not achieved 
in the pursuit of pleasure; the hedonists have their reward, but 
a they are in bondage to loveliness, while the artist is free in 

It is further to be observed that when we speak seriously of 
works of art as beautiful, meaning that they are truly works of 
art, valued as such apart from subject, association, or technical 
charm, we still speak elliptically. We mean that the external 

1 Walt Whitman. 

2 E. G. Riciotto Canudo : "It is certain that the secret of all art ... 
lies in the faculty of self-oblivion" (Music as a Religion of the Future). 



Figure a. Temple at Badami, 8th Century. 

Figure b. Monkey family. Stone sculpture. Mamallapuram, 8th Century. 


signs poems, pictures, dances, and so forth are effective re- 
minders. We may say that they possess significant form. But 
this can only mean that they possess that kind of form which 
reminds us of beauty, and awakens in us aesthetic emotion. The 
nearest explanation of significant form should be such form as 
exhibits the inner relations of things; or, after Hsieh Ho, "which 
reveals the rhythm of the spirit in the gestures of living things." 
All such works as possess significant form are linguistic ; and, if 
we remember this, we shall not fall into the error of those who 
advocate the use of language for language's sake, nor shall we 
confuse the significant forms, or their logical meaning or moral 
value, with the beauty of which they remind us. 

Let us insist, however, that the concept of beauty has originated 
with the philosopher, not with the artist: he has been ever con- 
cerned with saying clearly what had to be said. In all ages of 
creation the artist has been in love with his particular subject 
when it is not so, we see that his work is not 'felt' he has never 
set out to achieve the Beautiful, in the strict aesthetic sense, and 
to have this aim is to invite disaster, as one who should seek to 
fly without wings. 

It is not to the artist that one should say the subject is imma- 
terial : that is for the philosopher to say to the philistine who dis- 
likes a work of art for no other reason than that he dislikes it. 

The true critic (rasika) perceives the beauty of which the 
artist has exhibited the signs. It is not necessary that the critic 
should appreciate the artist's meaning every work of art is a 
kamadhenu, yielding many meanings for he knows without 
reasoning whether or not the work is beautiful, before the mind 
begins to question what it is "about." Hindu writers say that the 1 1 
capacity to feel beauty (to taste rasa} cannot be acquired by ' 
study, but is the reward of merit gained in a past life; for many 
good~lrien~an3 would-T>e historians of art have never perceived 
it. The poet is born, not made ; but so also is the rasika t whose 
genius differs in degree, not in kind, from that of the original 
artist. In western phraseology we should express this by saying 
that experience can only be bought by experience; opinions must 
be earned. We gain and feel nothing merely when we take it on 
authority that any particular works are beautiful. It is far better 
to be honest, and to admit that perhaps we cannot see their 
beauty. A day may come when we shall be better prepared. 


The critic, as soon as he becomes an exponent, has to prove 
his case; and he cannot do this by any process of argument, but 
only by creating a new work of art, the criticism. His audience, 
catching the gleam at second-hand but still the same gleam, for 
there is only one has then the opportunity to approach the 
original work a second time, more reverently. 

When I say that works of art are reminders, and the activity 
of the critic is one of reproduction, I suggest that the vision of 
even the original artist may be rather a discovery than a creation. 
If beauty awaits discovery everywhere, that is to say that it waits 
upon our recollection (in the sufi sense and in Wordsworth's) : 
in aesthetic contemplation as in love and knowledge, we momen- 
tarily recover the unity of our being released from individuality. 

There are no degrees of beauty; the most complex and the 
simplest expression remind us of one and the same state. The 
sonata cannot be more beautiful than the simplest lyric, nor the 
painting than the drawing, merely because of their greater elabo- 
ration. Civilized art is not more beautiful than savage art, merely 
because of its possibly more attractive ethos. A mathematical 
analogy is found if we consider large and small circles; these 
differ only in their content, not in their circularity. In the same 
way, there cannot be any continuous progress in art. Immediately 
a given intuition has attained to perfectly clear expression, it 
remains only to multiply and repeat this expression. This repe- 
tition may be desirable for many reasons, but it almost invariably 
involves a gradual decadence, because we soon begin to take the 
experience for granted. The vitality of a tradition persists only 
so long as it is fed by intensity of imagination. What we mean 
by creative art, however, has no necessary connection with 
novelty of subject, though that is not excluded. Creative art is 
art that reveals beauty where we should have otherwise over- 
looked it, or more clearly than we have yet received. Beauty is 
sometimes overlooked just because certain expressions have be- 
come what we call "hackneyed" ; then the creative artist dealing 
with the same subject restores our memory. The artist is 
challenged to reveal the beauty of all experiences, new and old. 

Many have rightly insisted that the beauty of a work of art is 

, independent of its subject, and truly, the humility of art, which 

"/finds its inspiration everywhere, is identical with the humility 

Love, which regards alike a dog and a Brahman and of 


Science, to which the lowest form is as significant as the highest. ' 
And this is possible, because it is one and the same undivided/ f 
all. "If a beauteous form we view, 'Tis His reflection shiningi 

It will now be seen in what sense we are justified in speaking 
of Absolute Beauty, and in identifying this beauty with God. 
We do not imply by this that God (who is without parts) has a 
lovely form which can be the object of knowledge; but that in 
so far as we see and feel beauty, we see and are one with Him. 
That God is the first artist does not mean that He created forms, 
which might not have been lovely had the hand of the potter 
slipped : but that every natural object is an immediate realization 
of His being. This creative activity is comparable with aesthetic 
expression in its non- volitional character; no element of choice 
enters into that world of imagination and eternity, but there is 
always perfect identity of intuition-expression, soul and body. 
The human artist who discovers beauty here or there is the 
ideal guru of Kabir, who "reveals the Supreme Spirit wherever 
the mind attaches itself/' 


The Early Buddhist view of art is strictly hedonistic. Just as 
little as Early Buddhism dreamed of an expression of its char- 
acteristic ideas through poetry, drama, or music, so little was it 
imagined that the arts of sculpture and painting could be anything 
but worldly in their purpose and effect. The arts were looked 
upon as physical luxuries, and loveliness as a snare. "Beauty is 
nothing to me," says the Dasa Dhamma Sutta, "neither the 
beauty of the body nor that that comes of dress." The Brethren 
were forbidden to allow the figures of men and women to be 
painted on monastery walls, and were permitted only representa- 
tions of wreaths and creepers. 1 The psychological foundation of 
this attitude is nowhere more clearly revealed than in a passage 
of the Visuddhi Magga, where we find that painters, musicians, 
perfumers, cooks, and elixir-prescribing physicians are all classed 
together as purveyors of sensuous luxuries, whom others honour 
"on account of love and devotion to the sensations excited by 
forms and other objects of sense." This is the characteristic 
Hinayana position throughout, and it is, of course, conspicuous 
also in the Jaina system, and in certain phases of Brahmanical 
thought, particularly in the period contemporary with early 

It is only in the third and second centuries B. c. that we find the 
Buddhists patronizing craftsmen and employing art for edifying 
ends. From what has just been said, however, it will be well 
understood that there had not at this time come into being any 
truly Buddhist or Brahmanical idealistic art; and thus "Early 
Buddist" art was necessarily the popular Brahmanical art and 
animistic art of the day, adapted to Buddhist requirements. The 
only exception to this rule is that special phase of Early Buddhist 
art which is represented by the capital of the Asoka columns, of 
which the forms are not merely non-Buddhist, but of extra-Indian 
origin. 2 

The Indian non-Buddhist art that we have evidence of in the age 

1 Cullavagga, vi, 3, 2. 

2 Visvakarma, 80, 81. 



Figure a. Seated Buddha, Gandhara, Figure b. Dryad, Sanchi, 2nd century, 
1st century, A.D. B.C. 

Figure c. Lay worshippers at a Buddha Shrine. AmaravatI, 2nd century. A.D. 


of Asoka and in the period immediately following Asoka, is 
chiefly concerned with the cult of nature-spirits the Earth God- 
dess, the Nagas or Serpent kings of the waters, and the Yaksha 
kings who rule the Four Quarters. The Maurya types are rep- 
resented by the well-known free-standing female figure at Besna- 
gar, 1 and the Parkham figure 2 now in the Mathura Museum. 
The early Buddhist art of Sanchi and Bharhut, probably slightly 
later, reflects the prevalence of the animistic cults in placing low- 
relief figures of the Yaksha, guardians of the Four Quarters, as 
protectors of the entrance gateways. 3 That the nature-spirits 
should thus act as guardians of Buddhist shrines reflects the 
essential victory of Buddhism, precisely as the story of the Naga 
Muchalinda, who, in the literary tradition, shelters the Buddha 
during the week of storms. 

Besides the Guardians of the Quarters we find at Sanchi figures 
of beautiful Yakshinis or dryads, whose function may be partly 
protective, but is also in large degree honorary and decorative. 
The Yakshini figure here reproduced [PLATE VI, B] is typical of 
all that is best in the art of Sanchi; but in what different world 
this happy dryad moves from that of the Pali Suttas, where 
orthodox Buddhism tries to prove that "as the body when dead 
is repulsive, so also is it when alive"! Buddhist monasticism 
to use the language of Blake sought consistently to bolt and bar 
the "Western Gates" : but our Sanchi dryad rather seems to say 
"the soul of sweet delight can never be defiled." 

The art of Sanchi is essentially pagan, and this appears not 
only in its fearless happiness, untinged by puritan misgiving or 
by mystic intuition, but also in the purely representative and real- 
istic technique. It was in the main a later Mahayana and Vaish- 
nava achievement of the Indian lyric spirit to discover that the 
two worlds of spiritual purity and sensuous delight need not, and 
perhaps ultimately cannot, be divided. 

In any case the Sanchi art is plainly not an expression of Early 
Buddhist feeling: and so also it is not primitive, but, on the con- 
trary, it is the classic achievement of an old popular art already 
long practised in less permanent materials. If there is at this 

1 VisvakarmS, 64. 

2 Visvakarmd,, 26. 

3 A much later example of the same arrangement is illustrated in 
V\svdkarm&, 75. 


time any Buddhist art that can be fairly called primitive, it is 
only to be recognized in architecture, where the simple 
forms of the early stupas, and their undecorated railings, and the 
severe design of the early excavated chaitya-halls truly reflect 
the intellectual and austere enthusiasm of Early Buddhism. 

Another part of the art of the Bharhut railing and the Sanchi 
gateways is devoted to the illustration of edifying legends, partic- 
ularly stories of the former lives of the Buddha, and of the last 
incarnation. The work is delicately executed in low relief we 
know from a contemporary inscription that amongst the crafts- 
men who contributed to the decoration of the Sanchi toranas 
were the "ivory-workers of Bhilsa" and affords us a remarkable 
record of Indian life, with its characteristic environment, manners 
and cults set out with evident realism and a wealth of circum- 
stantial detail. But for all their interest these reliefs, too, are 
essentially illustrations of edifying anecdotes, and only to a 
limited extent less, for example, than the similar, but, of course, 
very much later, illustrations at Borobodur directly express the 
Early Buddhist view of life and death. 

There is, however, one respect in which that view is perfectly 
reflected; in the fact that the figure of the Master himself is 
nowhere represented. Even in the group of episodes which 
illustrate the Great Renunciation Prince Siddhattha's departure 
from home, riding upon the back of the horse Kanthaka, and 
attended by the groom Channa Kanthaka's back is bare, and 
we see only the figures of the Devas who lift up the feet of the 
horse lest men should be roused by the sound of his hoofs, while 
the presence of the Prince is only indicated by the parasol of 
dominion borne beside the horse. In other compositions the 
Buddha is represented by symbols such as the Wisdom Tree or 
the conventionally represented footprints, the "Feet of the Lord" 
[PLATE VI, c]. It will be realized at once that the absence of the 
Buddha figure from the world of living men where, however, 
there yet remain the traces of his ministry, literally footprints 
on the sands of time is a true artistic rendering of the Master's 
guarded silence respecting the after-death state of those who have 
attained Nirvana: "the Perfect One is released from this, that 
his being should be gauged by the measure of the corporeal 
world," he is released from "name and form." In the omission 
of the figure of the Buddha, the Early Buddhist art is truly Budd- 



Buddha in Samadhi. Stone sculpture, Ceylon, 2nd century, A. D. 


dhist : for the rest, it is an art about Buddhism, rather than Bud- 
dhist art. 

Changes were meanwhile proceeding in the material of Bud- 
dhist belief. This belief is no longer merely intellectual, but has 
undergone an emotional development akin to that which finds 
expression in the bhakti doctrine of the Bhagavad Gltd; 

Even they that be born of sin. even women, traffickers, and serfs, 
if they turn to Me. come to the Supreme Path: be assured, O son 
of Kunti, that none who is devoted to Me is lost 

Similarly we find, even in so early a text as the Majjhima 
Nikaya that those who have not yet even entered the Paths, "are 
sure of heaven if they have love and faith towards Me." Gradu- 
ally the idea of Buddhahood replaces that of Arahatta : the orig- 
inal agnosticism is ignored, and the Buddha is endowed with all 
the qualities of transcendental godhead as well as with the physical 
peculiarities or perfections of the Superman (mahd-purusha). 
The Buddha thus conceived, together with the Bodhisattvas or 
Buddhas-to-be, presently engaged in the active work of salvation, 
became the object of a cult and was regarded as approachable 
by worship. In all this we see not merely an internal develop- 
ment of metaphysics and theology, but also the influence of the 
lay community: for a majority of men, and still more the majority 
of women, have always been more ready to worship than to know. 

At Amaravati we still find that the Buddha is represented by ' 
symbols, but it may be clearly seen from the passionate devotion 
of those who worship at the symbol-shrines and many of these 
are women, as in the case of the fragment here reproduced in 
PLATE VI, c that the One adored must have been conceived in 
others terms than those of a purely intellectual psychological 
analysis. Even before the Buddha figure is represented in official 
Buddhist art, the Buddha had become an object of adoration, a 
very personal god: and it cannot surprise us that the Master's 
figure should soon appear wherever Buddhist piety erected shrines 
and monuments. We know that images of Hindu gods were 
already in use in the second century, B. c, and it is highly probable 
that Buddha figures were in similar private use long before they 
took their place in a public cult. 

Before, however, we speak of the Buddha images, v/e must 
refer to a second phase of religious experience, which plays a 


great part alike in the development of Buddhism and Hinduism. 
This is the practice of Yoga, whereby enlightenment and emanci- 
pation are sought to be attained by meditation calculated to 
release the individual from empirical consciousness. Even in the 
earliest Buddhist praxis it would be difficult to exaggerate the part 
which these contemplative exercises play in the spiritual history 
of the Brethren, and to a lesser extent of laymen, for while the 
most abstract meditations lead to the attainment of Nirvana and 
the station of "No-return," the lesser no less certainly led to 
rebirth in the higher heavens. It is just for purposes of medita- 
tion that lonely places and roots of trees are so highly praised in 
the Buddhist literature, and of this the classic example is that of 
the Buddha himself, who reached the final enlightenment while 
seated in yogi- fashion at the foot of the Wisdom- tree. The 
essence of the method lies in the concentration of thought upon 
a single point, carried so far that the duality of subject and 
object is resolved into a perfect unity "when," in the words of 
Schelling, "the perceiving self merges in the self -perceived. At 
that moment we annihilate time and the duration of time ; we are 
no longer in time, but time, or rather eternity itself, is in us." A 
very beautiful description of the yogi is given as follows in the 
Bhagavad Glta? and as quoted here in a condensed form applies 
almost equally to Buddhist and Brahmanical practice, for the 
yoga is a praxis rather than a form of sectarian belief : 

Abiding alone in a secret place, without craving and without pos- 
sessions, he shall take his seat upon a firm seat, neither over-high 
nor over-low, and with the working of the mind and of the senses 
held in check, with body, head and neck maintained in perfect equi- 
poise, looking not round about him, so let him meditate, and thereby 
reach the peace of the Abyss: and the likeness of one such, who 
knows the boundless joy that lies beyond the senses and is grasped 
by intuition, and who swerves not from the truth, is that of a lamp 
in a windless place that does not flicker. 

Long before the Buddha image became a cult object, the 
familiar form of the seated yogi must have presented itself to 
the Indian mind in inseparable association with the idea of a 
mental discipline and of the attainment of the highest station of 

1 Bhagavad Gita. vi. 10-21 omitting the theistic elements. 


* "" ; 

* : 

Standing Bodhisattva. Stone sculpture. Ceylon, 2nd century, A.D. 


self-oblivion; and when the development of imagery followed 
there was no other form which could have been made a uni- 
versally recognized symbol of Him-who-had- thus-attained. 

This figure of the seated Buddha-yogi, with a far deeper 
content, is as purely monumental art as that of the Egyptian 
pyramids ; and since it represents the greatest ideal which Indian 
sculpture ever attempted to express, it is well that we find pre- 
served even a few magnificent examples of comparatively early 
date. Amongst these the colossal figure at Anuradhapura is 
almost certainly the best [PLATE VII]. The same ancient Bud- 
dhist site affords examples of a Bodhisattva, here reproduced on 
PLATE VIII, and of two standing Buddhas, illustrated in PLATES 
IX and Xj while nearly related to these are the standing 
figures of Buddhas lately excavated at Amaravati, reproduced 
on PLATE XL To all these works we may fairly assign the 
honoured name of primitives, since their massive forms 
and austere outline are immediately determined by the moral 
grandeur of the thesis and the suppressed emotion of its realiza- 
tion, without any intrusion of individuality or parade of skill. 
The fulness of the modelling expresses a high degree of vitality, 
but does not yet show the conscious elegance and suavity of 
Gupta types. 

We are not in position to precisely date these Buddhist primi- 
tives of Anuradhapura and Amaravati, but they may not be 
earlier than the first or second century A. D. and can hardly be 
later than the third or fourth. In describing these works a3 
primitive, it is not, of course, suggested that they are the earliest 
or nearly the earliest of Buddha figures extant, nor that all of 
them are absolutely free from any element of western formulation, 
but merely that in them the primitive inspiration is better pre- 
served than anywhere else. I have already suggested that the 
figures of the seated Buddha, if not the standing types, probably 
came into use as cult objects a good deal earlier, perhaps in the 
second century B. c. ; and if these were generally made in wood 
or other impermanent materials, this would be in accord with all 
that we know of the general development of Indian plastic art 
and architecture. In any case, as M. Foucher points out, 1 the 

1 Foucher (A.), L'Origine grecque de V Image du Bouddha, Paris, 1913- 
p. 31. 


conventional character of the Buddha figure of the Kanishka 

denote un art deja stereotype, et . . . suffit pour reporter d'au 
moins cent ans en arriere et faire par suite remonter au I er siecle 
want notre ere la creation du type plastique du Bienheureux. 

The same may be said of the Bodhisattvas. Indra and Brahma 
were perhaps the types from which the sculptural representations 
of Avalokitesvara and Maitreya were evolved, and Mr. Spooner 
has recorded his view that this evolution "was an accomplished 
fact prior to any form of the Gandhara school with which we are 
yet familiar," pointing out here too that "the forms of both are 
stereotyped" already in the earliest examples from Gandhara. 1 

We have so far left out of account the abundant and well- 
known Graeco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, dating from the 1st to 
the 4th century A. D., as well as the school of Mathura, which in 
part derives from the older art of Sanchi and Bharhut, and is 
partly dependent upon Gandhara. This omission is not, as M. 
Foucher would suggest, "par engouement d'estheticien ou ran- 
cune de nationaliste," 2 but because we are here concerned to 
discover the sources of inspiration of Buddhist imagery and to 
learn how this inspiration was first and most fully expressed. 
That many western formulas were absorbed into Indian art 
through Gandhara does not touch the question of feeling; we 
must avoid the common error of confusing "Formensprache" 
with "Geist." It is even easy to exaggerate the importance of the 
western formulae, as such, for whatever else in Buddhist art is 
borrowed, the cross-legged figure seated upon a lotus throne is 
entirely Indian in form as well as in idea ; and besides this seated 
figure, the standing Buddha and the images of all the Buddhist 
gods are but of secondary importance. 

For several reasons, it seems probable that the actual Gand- 
hara sculptures are mainly the work of western craftsmen em- 
ployed by the Gandhara kings to interpret Buddhist ideas, rather 
than Indian workmen under western guidance; and if some of 
the workmen were Indian by birth, they nevertheless did not give 
expression to Indian feeling. We have the parallel modem 

1 Spooner, D. B. Archaeological Survey of India, Ann. Rep.. 1907-8 
(1911), p. 144. 

2 Foucher (A.), loc. eit., p. 41. 



Stone sculpture, Ceylon, 2nd century, A.D. 



Standing Buddha. Stone sculpture, Ceylon, 2nd century, A.D. 


example of the late Raja Ravi Varma, who, despite the nominally 
Indian subject matter of his paintings, entirely fails to reflect the 
Indian spirit. 

The manner in which the western formulae have been gradually 
Indianized, alike in the northwest and in the school of Mathura, 
and thus, as Professor Oskar Miinsterberg remarks, "first de- 
veloped under national and Buddhist inspiration into a new and 
genuine art," 1 has been studied in considerable detail by many 
scholars ; but what is equally or more significant for our enquiry 
is the manner in which certain Indian formulae and Indian ideas 
are misrepresented at Gandhara, for misrepresentation necessarily 
implies the pre-existence of a type to be misinterpreted. The 
plainest case is afforded by the Buddha figure seated on a "lotus 
throne" (padmasana). In Gandhara sculpture the seated figure 
is uncomfortably and unstably balanced on a lotus flower that is 
far too small, and with its pointed petals, like an artichoke, 2 sug- 
gests a seat of penance rather than of ease (PLATE VI, A). The 
true sense of the padmasana is, of course, to indicate spiritual 
purity or divinity, and the symbol is only appropriately combined 
with that of the seated yogi, when this function is fulfilled with- 
out detracting from the one essential quality of repose. It is 
specially emphasized in yoga texts that the seat of the yogi 
is to be firm and easy, "sthira-sukha," and where this condition is 
overlooked, it is impossible to recognize an immediate expression 
of the original thesis. 

The foregoing argument supports the view already men- 
tioned, that the seated Buddha image in the age of 
Kanishka was "deja stereotype" It takes us, however, 
somewhat further, for in connection with the far stronger, 
though to archaeologists less convincing, aesthetic evidence, 
it shows plainly that Gandhara sculpture is not primitive 
Buddhist art. When, then, are we to look for the proto- 
type of the seated figure thus "deja stereotype?" Can we 
postulate a Roman yogi, seated on a lotus throne, and with hands 
in the dhydni mudrd, to set beside the Lateran Sophocles of 
which the influence is evident in standing images? The sug- 
gestion is sufficiently absurd to need no refutation. The seated 

1 A characteristic example may be studied in Vincent Smith, History 
of Fine Art in India and Ceylon, Plate xxiv. 
2 Miinsterberg (O.), Chinesische Kunstgeschichte, p. 117, n. 


Buddha, as we have already suggested on a priori grounds, can 
only be of Indian origin; and this being so, it will be seen how 
great an exaggeration is involved in speaking of the "Greek 
Origin of the Image of Buddha." 

It has been sufficient for our purpose to explain in what senses 
Gandhara sculpture cannot be regarded as primitive and autoch- 
thonous Buddhist art ; it has not been necessary to emphasize also 
how little the smug and complacent features of the Gandhara 
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and their listless and effeminate ges- 
tures, reflect the intellectual vigour or the devotional passion of 
Buddhist thought. For the benefit of M. Foucher, however, and 
of other scholars who may suppose, with him, that Mr. Havell, 
Professor Miinsterberg, and I, have cared more for Indian art 
than for art, I may point out that our estimate of Gandhara 
sculpture as of small aesthetic significance must not be taken as 
evidence of any prejudice against the art of Europe; it simply 
indicates concurrence in the view that "in the long sands and flats 
of Roman realism the stream of Greek inspiration is lost for 
ever." To admire Gandhara art, as art, is not a compliment to 
the greatness of the Greeks, but only shows how far that great- 
ness has been misunderstood. If it is possible for a European 
critic to write of the mosaics of the Galla Placidia at Ravenna 
that they are "still coarsely classical/' and that "there is a nasty, 
woolly realism about the sheep, and about the good shepherd more 
than a suspicion of the stodgy, Graeco-Roman Apollo," 1 then 
surely we may criticize the sculptures of Gandhara in the same 
terms without incurring charges of bad faith. 

To resume : Early Buddhist art is popular, sensuous and ani- 
mistic Indian art adapted to the purposes of the illustration of 
Buddhist anecdote and the decoration of Buddhist monuments; 
Gandhara art is mixed, and misinterpreted equally both eastern 
and western formulae, which must be older than itself, while it is 
not Buddhist in expression; the earliest Indian primitives of 
Buddhist art properly so-called are probably lost. In northern 
India the absence of primitives is partly to be accounted for by 
the fact that Buddhist inspiration was there absorbed, not in 
direct creation, but in adapting Graeco-Roman motifs to its own 
spiritual ends. In southern India and Ceylon the same energy 

(Clive).^r^p. 128. 



Standing images of Buddha. Stone sculpture, 2nd century, A. D. Amaravati. 


working in greater isolation found a more direct expression ; and 
though the earliest masterpieces may be lost, there are still pre- 
served at Anuradhapura and Amaravati magnificent works, 
which we may fairly speak of as Buddhist primitives. 1 

1 Early Buddhist art in China and Japan is also "primitive" in the 
aesthetic sense, precisely as Christian art in Europe preserved its primi- 
tive inspiration for six hundred years, because "some new race was 
always catching the inspiration and feeling and expressing it with primitive 
sensibility and passion." 


"The Lord of Tillai's Court a mystic dance performs; 
what's that, my dear?" Tiruvagagam, XII, 14. 

Amongst the greatest of the names of Siva is Nataraja, Lord 
of Dancers, or King of Actors. The cosmos is His theatre, there 
are many different steps in His repertory, He Himself is actor 
and audience 

When the Actor beateth the drum, 
Everybody cometh to see the show; 
When the Actor collecteth the stage properties 
He abideth alone in His happiness. 

How many various dances of Siva are known to His worship- 
pers I cannot say. No doubt the root idea behind all of these 
dances is more or less one and the same, the manifestation of 
primal rhythmic energy. Siva is the Eros Protogonos of Lucian, 
when he wrote : 

"It would seem that dancing came into being at the beginning 
of all things, and was brought to light together with Eros, that 
ancient one, for we see this primeval dancing clearly set forth in 
the choral dance of the constellations, and in the planets and 
fixed stars, their interweaving and interchange and orderly har- 

I do not mean to say that the most profound interpretation of 
Siva's dance was present in the minds of those who first danced 
in frantic, and perhaps intoxicated energy, in honour of the pre- 
Aryan hill-god, afterwards merged in Siva. A great motif in 
religion or art, any great symbol, becomes all things to all men; 
age after age it yields to men such treasure as they find in their 
own hearts. Whatever the origins of Siva's dance, it became 
in time the clearest image of the activity of God which any art 
or religion can boast of. Of the various dances of Siva I shall 
only speak of three, one of them alone forming the main subject 
of interpretation. The first is an evening dance in the Hima- 
layas, with a divine chorus, described as follows in the Siva 
Pradosha Stotra: 


"Placing the Mother of the Three Worlds upon a golden throne, 
studded with precious gems, Sulapani dances on the heights of 
Kailasa, and all the gods gather round Him: 

"Sarasvati plays on the vind, Indra on the flute, Brahma holds 
the time-marking cymbals, Lakshml begins a song, Vishnu plays 
on a drum, and all the gods stand round about: 

"Gandharvas, Yakshas, Patagas, Uragas, Siddhas, Sadhyas, 
Vidyadharas, Amaras, Apsarases, and all the beings dwelling 
in the three worlds assemble there to witness the celestial dance 
and hear the music of the divine choir at the hour of twilight." 

This evening dance is also referred to in the invocation preced- 
ing the Katha Sarit Sagara. 

In the pictures of this dance, Siva is two-handed, and the co- 
operation of the gods is clearly indicated in their position of 
chorus. There is no prostrate Asura trampled under Siva's feet. 
So far as I know, no special interpretations of this dance occur 
in Saiva literature. 

r The second well known dance of Siva is called the Tandava, 
and belongs to His tamasic aspect as Bhairava or Vira-bhadra. 
It is performed in cemeteries and burning grounds, where Siva, 
usually in ten-armed form, dances wildly with Devl,|accompamed 
by troops of capering imps. Representations of this dance are 
common amongst ancient sculptures, as at Elura, Elephanta, 
and also Bhuvanesvara. The tandava dance is in origin that 
of a pre-Aryan divinity, half-god, half-demon, who holds his 
midnight revels in the burning ground. In later times, this dance 
in the cremation ground, sometimes of Siva, sometimes of Devi, 
is interpreted in Saiva and Sakta literature in a most touching 
and profound sense. 

Thirdly, we have the Nadanta dance of Nataraja before the 
assembly (sabhd) in the golden hall of Chidambaram or Tillai, 
the centre of the Universe, first revealed to gods and rishis after 
the submission of the latter in the forest of Taragam, as related 
in the Koyil Puranam. The legend, which has after all, no very 
close connection with the real meaning of the dance, may be 
summarised as follows: 

In the forest of Taragam dwelt multitudes of heretical rishis, 
following of the Mimamsa. Thither proceeded Siva to confute 
them, accompanied by Vishnu disguised as a beautiful woman, 
and Ati-Seshan. The rishis were at first led to violent dispute 


amongst themselves, but their anger was soon directed against 
Siva, and they endeavoured to destroy Him by means of incanta- 
tions. A fierce tiger was created in sacrificial fires, and rushed 
upon Him; but smiling gently, He seized it and, with the nail of 
His little finger, stripped off its skin, and wrapped it about Him- 
self like a silken cloth. 1 Undiscouraged by failure, the sages 
renewed their offerings, and produced a monstrous serpent, which 
however, Siva seized and wreathed about His neck like a gar- 
land. Then He began to dance; but there rushed upon Him a 
last monster in the shape of a malignant dwarf, Muyalaka. Upon 
him the God pressed the tip of His foot, and broke the creature's 
back, so that it writhed upon the ground; and so, His last foe 
prostrate, Siva resumed the dance, witnessed by gods and rishis. 

Then Ati Seshan worshipped Siva, and prayed above all things 
for the boon, once more to behold this mystic dance ; Siva prom- 
ised that he should behold the dance again in sacred Tillai, the 
centre of the Universe. 

This dance of Siva in Chidambaram or Tillai forms the motif 
lof the South Indian copper images of Sri Nataraja, the Lord of 
the Dance. -*These images vary amongst themselves in minor 
details, but all express one fundamental conception. Before pro- 
ceeding to enquire what these may be, it will be necessary to 
describe the image of Sri Nataraja as typically represented. The 
images then, represent Siva dancing, having four hands, with 
braided and jewelled hair of which the lower locks are whirling 
in the dance. In His hair may be seen a wreathing cobra, a 
skull, and the mermaid figure of Ganga ; upon it rests the crescent 
moon, and it is crowned with a wreath of Cassia leaves. In His 
right ear He wears a man's earring, a woman's in the left ; He is 
adorned with necklaces and armlets, a jewelled belt, anklets, 
bracelets, finger and toe-rings. The chief part of His dress 
consists of tightly fitting breeches, and He wears also a fluttering 
scarf and a sacred thread. One right hand holds a drum, the 
other is uplifted in the sign of do not fear: one left hand holds 
fire, the other points down upon the demon Muyalaka, a dwarf 
holding a cobra ; the left foot is raised. There is a lotus pedestal, 
from which springs an encircling glory (tiruvasi), fringed with 
flame, and touched within by the hands holding drum and fire. 

*A similar story is elsewhere related about an elephant; and these 
legends account for the elephant or tiger skin, which Siva wears. 


The images are of all sizes, rarely if ever exceeding four feet in 
total height. 

Even without reliance upon literary references, the interpreta- 
tion of this dance would not be difficult. Fortunately, however, 
we have the assistance of a copious contemporary literature, which 
enables us to fully explain not only the general significance of the 
dance, but equally, the details of its concrete symbolism. Some 
of the peculiarities of the Nataraja images, of course, belong to 
the conception of Siva generally, and not to the dance in particu- 
lar. Such are the braided locks, as of a yogi : the Cassia garland : 
the skull of Brahma : the figure of Ganga, (the Ganges fallen from 
heaven and lost in Siva's hair) : the cobras : the different earrings, 
betokening the dual nature of Mahadev, 'whose half is Uma' : and 
the four arms. The drum also is a general attribute of Siva, 
belonging to his character of Yogi, though in the dance, it has 
further a special significance. What then is the meaning of Siva's 
Nadanta dance, as understood by Saivas? Its essential signifi- 
cance is given in texts such as the following : 

"Our Lord is the Dancer, who, like the heat latent in firewood, 
diffuses His power in mind and matter, and makes them dance 
in their turn/' 2 

The dance, in fact, represents His five activites (Pancakritya) , 
viz: Srishti (overlooking, jcreation,^ evolution), Sthiti (preserva- 
tion, support), Samhara (destruction, Devolution) , Tirobhava 
(veiling, embodiment, illusion, and also, giving rest), Anugraha 
(release, salvation, grace). These, separately considered, are the 
activities of the deities Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Mahesvara and 

This cosmic activity is the central motif of the dance. Further 
quotations will illustrate and explain the more detailed symbol- 
isms. Unmai Vilakkam, verse 36, tells us : 

"Creation arises from the drum: protection proceeds from the 
hand of hope : from fire proceeds destruction : the foot held aloft 

1 Kadavul Mamunivar's Tiruvatavurar Puranam, Puttaraivatil, Venra- 
carukkam, stanza 75, translated by Nallasvami Flllai, Sivajnanabodham, 
p. 74. This could also be rendered: 

Like heat latent in firewood, he fills all bodies : 
Our Father dances, moving all souls into action, know ye! 
Compare Eckhart, "Just as the fire infuses the essence and clearness 
into the dry wood, so has God done with man." 


gives release." It will be observed that the fourth hand points 
to this lifted foot, the refuge of the soul. 

We have also the following from Chidambara Mummani Kovai: 

"O my Lord, Thy hand holding the sacred drum has made and 
ordered the heavens and earth and other worlds and innumerable 
souls. Thy lifted hand protects both the conscious and uncon- 
scious order of thy creation. All these worlds are transformed 
by Thy hand bearing fire. Thy sacred foot, planted on the 
ground, gives an abode to the tired soul struggling in the toils 
of causality. It is Thy lifted foot that grants eternal bliss to 
those that approach Thee. These Five- Actions are indeed Thy 

The following verses from the Tirukuttu Darshana (Vision of 
the Sacred Dance), forming the ninth tantra of Tirumular's 
Tirumantram, expand the central motif further : 

"His form is everywhere: all-pervading in His Siva-Sakti: 

Chidambaram is everywhere, everywhere His dance : 

As Siva is all and omnipresent, 

Everywhere is Siva's gracious dance made manifest. 

His five-fold dances are temporal and timeless. 

His five-fold dances are His Five Activties. 

By His grace He performs the five acts, 

This is the sacred dance of Uma-Sahaya. 

He dances with Water, Fire, Wind and Ether, 

Thus our Lord dances ever in the court. 

Visible to those who pass over Maya and Mahamaya (illusion 
and super-illusion) 

Our Lord dances His eternal dance. 

The form of the Sakti is all delight- 
This united delight is Uma's body: 

This form of Sakti arising in time 

And uniting the twain is the dance" 

His body is Akas, the dark cloud therein is Muyalaka, 

The eight quarters are His eight arms, 

The three lights are His three eyes, 

Thus becoming, He dances in our body as the congregation." 
This is His dance. Its deepest significance is felt when it is 
realised that it takes place within the heart and the self. Every- 
where is God: that Everywhere is the heart. Thus also we find 
another verse : 


"The dancing foot, the sound of the tinkling bells, 

The songs that are sung and the varying steps, 

The form assumed by our Dancing Gurupara 

Find out these within yourself, then shall your fetters fall away." 

To this end, all else but the thought of God must be cast out of 
the heart, that He alone may abide and dance therein. In 
Unmai Vilakkam, we find : 

"The silent sages destroying the threefold bond are established 
where their selves are destroyed. There they behold the sacred 
and are filled with bliss. This is the dance of the Lard of the 
assembly, 'whose very form is Grace*." 

With this reference to the 'silent sages' compare the beautiful 
words of Tirumular: 

"When resting there they (the yogis who attain the highest 
place of peace) lose themselves and become idle. . . . Where the 
idlers dwell is the pure Space. Where the idlers sport is the 
Light. What the idlers know is Vedanta. What the idlers find 
is the deep sleep therein." 

Siva is a destroyer and loves the burning ground. But what 
does He destroy ? Not merely the heavens and earth at the close 
of a world-cycle, but the fetters that bind each separate soul. 1 
Where and what is the burning ground ? It is not the place where 
our earthly bodies are cremated, but the hearts of His lovers, laid 
waste and desolate. The place where the ego is destroyed sig- \ 
nifies the state where illusion and deeds are burnt away: that is 
the crematorium, the burning-ground where Sri Nataraja dances, 
and whence He is named Sudalaiyadi, Dancer of the burning- 
ground. In this simile, we recognize the historical connection 
between Siva's gracious dance as Nataraja, and His wild dance 
as the demon of the cemetery. 

This conception of the dance is current also amongst Saktas, / 
especially in Bengal, where the Mother rather than the Father- 
aspect of Siva is adored. Kali is here the dancer, for whose 

1 Cf. Marcel Schwob. Le Lvure de Monelle. 

"This is the teaching: Destroy, destroy, destroy. Destroy within your- 
self, destroy all around you. Make room for your soul and for other 
souls. Destroy, because all creation proceeds from destruction .... 
For all building up is done with debris, and nothing in the world is new 
but shapes. But the shapes must be perpetually destroyed . . . Break 
every cup from which you drink." 


entrance the heart must be purified by fire, made empty by renun- 
ciation. A Bengali Hymn to Kali voices this prayer : 

"Because Thou lovest the Burning-ground, 

I have made a Burning-ground of my heart 

That Thou, Dark One, haunter of the Burning-ground, 

Mayest dance Thy eternal dance. 

Nought else is within my heart, O Mother : 

Day and night blazes the funeral pyre : 

The ashes' of the dead, strewn all about, 

I have preserved against Thy coming, 

With death-conquering Mahakala neath Thy feet 

Do Thou enter in, dancing Thy rhythmic dance, 

That I may behold Thee with closed eyes." 

Returning to the South, we find that in other Tamil texts the 
purpose of Siva's dance is explained. In Sivajnana Siddhiyar, 
Supaksha, Sutra V, 5, we find, 

"For the purpose of securing both kinds of fruit to the count- 
less souls, our Lord, with actions five, dances His dance." Both 
kinds of fruit, that is Iham, reward in this world, and Param, bliss 
in Mukti. 

Again, Unmai Vilakkam, v. 32, 37, 39 inform us 

"The Supreme Intelligence dances in the soul . . . for the 
purpose of removing our sins. By these means, our Father 
scatters the darkness of illusion (mayd), burns the thread of 
causality (karma), stamps down evil (mala, anava, avidya), 
showers Grace, and lovingly plunges the soul in the ocean of 
Bliss (ananda). They never see rebirths, who behold this 
mystic dance/' 

The conception of the world process as the Lord's pastime or 
amusement (/I/a) is also prominent in the Saiva scriptures. Thus 
Tirumular writes, "The perpetual dance is His play." This spon- 
taneity of Siva's dance is so clearly expressed in Skryabin's Poem 
of Ecstasy that the extracts following will serve to explain it 
better than any more formal exposition what Skryabin wrote 
is precisely what the Hindu imager moulded : 
"The Spirit (purusha) playing, 
The Spirit longing, 

The Spirit with fancy (yoga-mayo) creating all, 
Surrenders himself to the bliss (ananda) of love . . . 


Amid the flowers of His creation (prakriti), He lingers in a 

kiss. . . . 
Blinded by their beauty, He rushes, He frolics, He dances, 

He whirls. . . . 

He is all rapture, all bliss, in this play (Ilia) 
Free, divine, in this love struggle. 
In the marvellous grandeur of sheer aimlessness, 
And in the union of counter-aspirations 
In consciousness alone, in love alone, 
The Spirit learns the nature (svabhava) of His divine 

being. . . . 

' O, my world, my life, my blossoming, my ecstasy ! 
Your every moment I create 
By negation of all forms previously lived through : 
I am eternal negation (neti, neti). . . .' 
Enjoying this dance, choking in this whirlwind, 
Into the domain of ecstasy, He takes swift flight. 
In this unceasing change (samsara, nitya bhava), in this 

flight, aimless, divine 
The Spirit comprehends Himself, 
In the power of will, alone, free, 
Ever- creating, all-irradiating, all- vivify ing, 
Divinely playing in the multiplicity of forms, He compre- 
hends Himself. . . . 
' I already dwell in thee, O, my world, 
Thy dream of me 'twas I coming into existence. . . . 
And thou art all one wave of freedom and bliss. . . .' 
By a general conflagration (maha-pralaya) the universe 

(samsara) is embraced 
The Spirit is at the height of being, and He feels the tide 


Of the divine power (sakti) of free will. He is all-daring: 
What menaced, now is excitement, 
What terrified, is now delight. . . . 
And the universe resounds with the joyful cry I am." 1 
This aspect of Siva's immanence appears to have given rise to 
the objection that he dances as do those who seek to please the 
eyes of mortals: but it is answered that in fact He dances to 

1 From the translation by Lydia L. Pimenoff Noble, published in the 
Boston Symphony Orchestra Programme, October 29, 1917. 


maintain the life of the cosmos and to give release to those who 
seek Him. Moreover, if we understand even the dances of 
human dancers rightly, we shall see that they too lead to free- 
dom. 1 But it is nearer the truth to answer that the reason of 
His dance lies in His own nature, all his gestures are own-nature- 
born (svabhava-jah) , spontaneous, and purposeless for His be- 
ing is beyond the realm of purposes. 

In a much more arbitrary way the dance of Siva is identified 
with the Pancakshara, or five syllables of the prayer Si-va-ya-na- 
ma, 'Hail to Siva/ In Unmai Vilakkam we are told: "If this 
beautiful Five-Letters be meditated upon, the soul will reach the 
land where there is neither light nor darkness, and there Sakti 
will make it One with Sivam." 1 

Another verse of Unmai Vilakkam explains the fiery arch 
(tiruvasi) : The Panchakshara and the Dance are identified with 
the mystic syllable 'Om,' the arch being the kombu or hook of 
the ideograph of the written symbol: "The arch over Sri Nata- 
raja is Omkara; and the akshara which is never separate from 
the Omkara is the contained splendour. This is the Dance 
of the Lord of Chidambaram/' 

The Tiru-Arul-Payan however (Ch. ix. 3) explains the tiruvasi 
more naturally as representing the dance of Nature, contrasted 
with Siva's dance of wisdom. 

"The dance of nature proceeds on one side: the dance of en- 
lightenment on the other. Fix your mind in the centre of the 

I am indebted to Mr. Nallasvami Pillai for a commentary on 

f*" The first dance is the action of matter material and individual 
energy. This is the arch, tiruvasi, Omkara, the dance of Kali. 
The other is the Dance of Siva the akshara inseparable from 
the Omkara called ardhamdtra or the fourth letter of the Pra- 
nava Chaturtam and Turiyam. The first dance is not possible 
unless Siva wills it and dances Himself. 

The general result of this interpretation of the arch is, then, 
that it represents ...jnatter, -nature, Prakriti; the contained splen- 
dour, Siva dancing within and touching the arch with head, 
hands and feet, is the universal omnipresent Spirit (Purusha"). 

1 See Nandikesvara, The Mirror of Gesture, translated by Coomara- 
swamy and Duggirala, p. 11. 


Between these stands the individual soul, as ya is between Si-va 
and na-ma. 

Now to summarize the whole interpretation we find that The 
Essential Significance of Sivas Dance is threefold: First, it is 
the image of his Rhythmic Play as the Source of all Movement 
within the Cosmos, which is Represented by the Arch: Secondly, 
the Purpose of his Dance is to Release the Countless souls of 
men from the Snare of Illusion: Thirdly the Place of the Dance, 
Chidambaram, the Centre of the Universe, is within the Heart. 

So far I have refrained from all aesthetic criticism and have 
endeavoured only to translate the central thought of the con- 
ception of Siva's dance from plastic to verbal expression, with- 
out reference to the beauty or imperfection of individual works. 
But it may not be out of place to call attention to the grandeur of 
this conception itself as a synthesis of science, religion and art. 
How amazing the range of thought and sympathy of those rishi- 
artists who first conceived such a type as this, affording an image 
of reality, a key to the complex tissue of life, a theory of nature, 
not merely satisfactory to a single clique or race, nor acceptable 
to the thinkers of one century only, but universal in its appeal 
to the philosopher, the lover, and the artist of all ages and all 
| countries. How supremely great in power and grace this danc- 
ling im&ge must appear to all those who have striven in plastic 
'forms to give expression to their intuition of Life! 

In these days of specialization, we are not accustomed to such 
a synthesis of thought; but for those who 'saw* such images as 
this, there could have been no division of life and thought into 
water-tight compartments. Nor do we always realize, when we 
criticise the merits of individual works, the full extent of the 
creative power which, to borrow a musical analogy, could dis- 
cover a mode so expressive of fundamental rhythms and so pro- 
foundly significant and inevitable. 

Every part of such an image as this is directly expressive, not 
of any mere superstition or dogma, but of evident facts. No 
artist of today, however, great, could more exactly or more wisely 
create an image of that Energy which science must postulate 
behind all phenomena. If we would reconcile Time with Eter- 
nity, we can scarcely do so otherwise than by the conception of 
alternations of phase extending over vast regions of space and 
great tracts of time. Especially significant, then, is the phase 


alternation implied by the drum, and the fire which 'changes/ 
not destroys. These are but visual symbols of the theory of the 
day and night of Brahma. 

' *In the night of Brahma, Nature is inert, and cannot dance till 
Siva wills it: He rises from His rapture, and dancing sends 
through inert matter pulsing waves of awakening sound, and 
lo! matter also dances appearing as a glory round about Him. 
Dancing, He sustains its manifold phenomena. In the fulness of 
time, still dancing, he destroys all forms and names by fire and 
gives new rest. This is poetry; but none the less, science.! 

It is not strange that the figure of Nataraja has commanded 
the adoration of so many generations past: familiar with all 
scepticisms, expert in tracing all beliefs to primitive supersti- 
tions, explorers of the infinitely great and infinitely small, we are 
worshippers of Nataraja still. 



Brahma. Brahmanical stone sculpture, Elephanta, 8th Century. 


Certain writers, speaking of the many-armed images of Indian 
art, have treated this peculiarity as an unpardonable defect. 
"After 300 A.D.," says Mr. Vincent Smith, "Indian sculpture 
properly so-called hardly deserves to be reckoned as art. The 
figures both of men and animals become stiff and formal, and the 
idea of power is clumsily expressed by the multiplication of 
members. The many-headed, many-armed gods and goddesses 
whose images crowd the walls and roofs of madiaeval temples 
have no pretentions to beauty, and are frequently hideous and 
grotesque." 1 Mr. Maskell speaks of "these hideous deities with 
animals* heads and innumerable arms." 2 Sir George Birdwood 
considers that "the monstrous shapes of the Puranic deities are 
unsuitable for the higher forms of artistic representation; and 
this is possibly why sculpture and painting are unknown as fine 
arts in India." 3 Quotations of this kind could be multiplied, but 
enough has been given to show that for a certain class of critics 
there exists the underlying assumption that in Indian art the 
multiplications of limbs or heads, or addition of any animal at- 
tributes, is in itself a very grave defect, and fatal to any claim for 
merit in the works concerned. 

In reply to criticisms of this kind it would be useless to cite 
examples of Greek art such as the Victory of Samothrace or the 
head of Hypnos: of Egyptian, such as the figures of Sekhet or 
other animal divinities: of Byzantine or mediaeval angels: or 
modern works such as some of M. Rodin's. For it is clear that 
all these, if the critics be consistent, must suffer equal condem- 

Let me digress at this point to class the critics : for I fear that 

1 Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1910, vol. II. 

* Ivories, 1915. p. 332. 

3 Industrial Arts of India, 1880, p. 125. If the fine arts were until 
recently "unknown in India," perhaps this can be explained by the 
remark of B. H. Baden-Powell, who says that "In a country like this 
we must not expect to find anything that appeals to minid or deep 
feeling." For "unknown" to Sir George Birdwood or Mr. Baden- 
Powell need not imply anything more than "unrecognized." 

It is fair to say that Mr. Vincent Smith's opinions have been con- 
siderably modified since 1910. 


I ought to apologise for putting forward in this chapter what is 
obvious. The difficulty is one that has been raised exclusively 
by philologists and historians : in a considerable experience I have 
never heard these objections raised by artists or by connoisseurs. 
These notes are dedicated, then, only to the philologist and the 
historian, and may be neglected by all others. 

The condemnations quoted are certainly to be justified if we 
are to agree to find the final aim of art in representation: then 
let us seek the most attractive models and carefully copy them. 

But this test of verisimilitude has never been anything more 
than the result of a popular misunderstanding. Let us submit 
the Indian, Greek or Egyptian figures to recognized standards, 
and to criticism a little more penetrating than is involved in 
merely counting heads or arms. 

Leonardo says that that figure is most worthy of praise which 
by its action best expresses the passion that animates it. 

Hsieh Ho demands that the work of art should exhibit the 
fusion of the rhythm of the spirit with the movement of living 

Mr. Holmes suggests that a work of art must possess in some 
degree the four qualities of Unity, Vitality, Infinity and Repose. 

In other words, a work of art is great in so far as it expresses 
its own theme in a form at once rhythmic and impassioned: 
through a definite pattern it must express a motif deeply felt. 

From this point of view it would seem that we must take each 

work of art upon its own merits. To apply the simplest tests just 

quoted I wish to speak with the greatest possible simplicity an 

image witn many arms or neads may be called an inferior work 

tTT art, or inartistic, if it lacks any one of the fntir qualities 

"demanded by Mr. Holmes, or as we may say, if it is not ' felt.' But 

if it has such qualities, if it is felt, need we further concern 

ourselves with arithmetic? 

The artist does not choose his own problems: he finds in the 
canon instruction to make such and such images in such and 
such a fashion for example, an image of Nataraja with four 
arms (FRONTISPIECE), of Brahma with four heads, PLATE XII, of 
Mahisha-mardinI with ten arms, PLATE XIII, or of Ganesa with 
jm elephant's head. Our critics are bold enough td assert that 
mo bey ing these instructions he cannot create a work of art. It 
would have been fairer and more moderate to suggest that the 


Durga as Chandi slaying Mahisha. Brahmanical bronze. Java. llth Century. 


problems propounded are often very difficult ; this would have left 
open the way to recognize a successful effort, if such could be 
found. To have overcome the difficulties would then be a proof 
of artistic capacity and I suppose it should be the aim of the 
historian of art to discover such proofs. 

The accompanying illustration, PLATE XIII, shows a Javanese 
figure of Mahisha-mardini with ten arms, slaying the demon Ma- 
hisha. She is here an dread avenging power: yet she is neither 
cruel nor angry, but rather sad with the sadness of those who are 
wise, playing an inevitable part, though at heart no more than the 
spectator of a drama. This entire figure, damaged as it is, 
shows what tenderness may be expressed, even in rajasic images. 
And this peace and tenderness find expression in the movement 
of the whole figure, and not by any arbitrary means: no part 
of the whole is at war with any other, and this is what we mean 
by unity. It would indeed be futile to condemn an image such 
as this because it has ten arms. Or take the Nataraja image of 
the primal rhythmic energy underlying all phenomenal appear- 
ances and activity: here is perpetual movement, perpetually 
poised the rhythm of the spirit. 

The death of Hiranyakasipu, PLATE XIV, is a work that may 
be called grotesque. We have long learnt however that this cannot 
be used as a mere term of abuse. It would be difficult to imagine 
a more splendid rendering of the well known theme of the impious 
king who met his death at the hands of the avenging deity in man- 
lion form. The hand upon the shoulder, the shrinking figure with 
the mocking smile that has had no time to fade what could be 
more terrible ? These are figures expressing by their action their 
animating passions: or if not so, then none have ever been. It 
would be unkind to contrast a work such as this with the 'truth to 
nature' of the Laokoon. 

In these figures we cannot speak of the many arms as 'addi- 
tional members' because in a human being they might -appear to 
be such. We have here a work of art which is, or is not a unity. 
If the work is a unity we can no more speak of added elements, 
than we can speak of ornament in a work of art as something 
added to an expression that would not otherwise be beautiful. 
It is not by addition or removal that we create. Before these 
works we can only ask, are these, or are they not, clear and im- 
passioned expressions of their subject matter? All unprejudiced 


and competent observers would then agree that amongst Indian 
images there are some of which we can say that they are such 
adequate expressions, and of others that they are not: but to 
recognize those and these requires a rather more subtle approach 
than that involved in the arithmetical process of counting arms 
or heads. 

Certain developments in the most modern art could be quoted 
in comparison with the Indian complex figures, and, indeed, the 
method of these is more than modern. Some painters of the 
present day have sought by many strange devices to create a 
synthetic and symphonic art representing a continuity of thought 
or action, and an interpretation of ideas belonging to more than 
a single phase of personality an art of interpretation. And if, 
as we now realise, even the human personality is compound, we 
should understand that this must be even more true of a cosmic 
divinity, who is, indeed, able by a division of upadhis, to func- 
tion in many places at one time. To reflect such conceptions in 
art demands a synthetic rather than a representative language. 
It might well be claimed, then, that this method adopted some- 
times in India, sometimes in Egypt, sometimes in Greece, and 
still employed, has proved successful from the practical point of 
view, of pure expression, the getting said what had to be said: 
and this is after all the sure and safe foundation of art. 

These forms remain potentially equally satisfactory, too, 
whether as philosophers we regard them as purely abstract ex- 
pressions, or with the artists themselves regard them as realistic 
presentations of another order of life than our own, deriving 
from a deva-loka, other than the world we are familiar with, 
but not necessarily unknowable or always invisible. The distinc- 
tion in any case is slight, for the images equally belong to a 
world of their own, however we regard them. 

The criticism of the philologists ultimately resolves itself into 
a complaint that the art is not always representative ('true to 
nature'). I have tried to show that it is true to experience and 
feeling. But aside from that, whatever in a work of art is 
ostensibly representative must be judged according to the logic 
of the world it represents even if that world be no other than 
the idea-world of the sadhanas and dhyana mantrams. All worlds 
are idea-worlds of one kind or another, and we should also remem- 
ber that 'recognition' does not necessarily imply any real knowl- 



Death of Hiranyakasipu. Brahmanical stone sculpture. Eliira, 8th Century. 


edge of things in themselves we do not know that men have 
really two arms, that is merely an 'intelligible representation/ 
It is no criticism of a fairy tale to say that in our world we meet 
no fairies: we should rather, and do actually, condemn on the 
score of insincerity, a fairy tale which should be so made as to 
suggest that in the writer's world there were no fairies. It is no 
criticism of a beast-fable to say that after all animals do not 
talk English or Sanskrit. Nor is it a criticism of an Indian icon 
to point out that we know no human beings with more than 
two arms. 

To appreciate any art, moreover, we ought not to concentrate 
our attention upon its peculiarities ethical or formal but should 
endeavour to take for granted whatever the artist takes for 
granted. No motif appears bizarre to those who have been 
familiar with it for generations: and in the last analysis it must 
remain beyond the reach of all others so long as it remains in 
their eyes primarily bizarre. 

If circumstances then compel the philologist and the historian 
to classify the extant materials for the study of Indian art, their 
studies will be the more valuable the more strictly they are con- 
fined to the archaeological point of view. For those should not 
air their likes and dislikes in Oriental art, who when they speak 
of art mean mere illustration : for there they will rarely meet with 
what they seek, and the expression of their disappointment be- 
comes wearisome. 


Music has been a cultivated art in India for at least three 
thousand years. The chant is an essential element of Vedic 
ritual ; and the references in later Vedic literature, the scriptures 
of Buddhism, and the Brahmanical epics show that it was already 
highly developed as a secular art in centuries preceding the begin- 
ning of the Christian era. Its zenith may perhaps be assigned 
to the Imperial age of the Guptas from the fourth to the sixth 
century A. D. This was the classic period of Sanskrit literature, 
culminating in the drama of Kalidasa; and to the same time is 
assigned the monumental treatise of Bharata on the theory of- 
music and drama. 

The art music of the present day is a direct descendant of 
these ancient schools^ whose traditions have been handed down 
with comment and expansion in the guilds of the hereditary 
musicians. While the words of a song may have been composed 
at any date, the musical themes communicated orally from master 
to disciple are essentially ancient. As in other arts and in life, 
so here also India presents to us the wonderful spectacle of the 
still surviving consciousness of the ancient world, with a range 
of emotional experience rarely accessible to those who are pre- 
occupied with the activities of over-production, and intimidated 
by the economic insecurity of a social order based on competition. 

The art music of India exists only under cultivated patron- 
age, and in its own intimate environment. It corresponds to all 
that is most classical in the European tradition. It is the chamber- 
music of an aristocratic society, where the patron retains music- 
ians for his own entertainment and for the pleasure of the circle 
of his friends: or it is temple music, where the musician is the 
servant of God. The public concert is unknown, and the liveli- 
hood of the artist does not depend upon his ability and will to 
amuse the crowd. In other words, the musician is protected. 
Under these circumstances he is under no temptation to be any- 
thing but a musician; his education begins in infancy, and his 
art remains a vocation. The civilizations of Asia do not afford 
to the inefficient amateur those opportunities of self-expression 



' Chamber-music of an aristocratic society.' Late Mughal painting, 18th century. 


which are so highly appreciated in Europe and America. The 
arts are nowhere taught as a social accomplishment; on the one 
hand there is the professional, proficient in a traditional art, and 
on the other the lay public. The musical cultivation of the public 
does not consist in "everybody doing it," but in appreciation and 
reverence. \ 

I have indeed heard the strange objection raised that to sing 
the music of India one must be an artist; and this objection seems 
to voice a typically democratic disapproval of superiority. But 
it would be nearly as true to say that the listener must respond 
with an art of his own, and this would be entirely in accord with 
Indian theories of aesthetic. The musician in India finds a 
model audience technically critical, but somewhat indifferent to 
voice production. The Indian audience listens rather to the song 
than to the singing of the song: those who are musical, perfect 
the rendering of the song by the force of their own imagination 
and emotion. Under these conditions the actual music is better 
heard than where the sensuous perfection of the voice is made a 
sine qua non: precisely as the best sculpture is primitive rather 
than suave, and we prefer conviction to prettiness "It is like 
the outward poverty of God, 1 whereby His glory is nakedly 
revealed." None the less the Indian singer's voice is sometimes 
of great intrinsic beauty, and sometimes used with sensitive 
intelligence as well as skill. It is not, however, the voice that 
makes the singer, as so often happens in Europe. 

Since Indian music is not written, and cannot be learnt from 
books, except in theory, it will be understood that the only way 
for a foreigner to learn it must be to establish between himself 
and his Indian teachers that special relationship of disciple and 
master which belongs to Indian education in all its phases: he 
must enter into the inner spirit and must adopt many of the 
outer conventions of Indian life, and his study must continue 
until he can improvise the songs under Indian conditions and to 
the satisfaction of Indian professional listeners. He must possess 
not only the imagination of an artist, but also a vivid memory 
and an ear sensitive to microtonal inflections. 

The theory of scale is everywhere a generalisation from the 

1 Mahesvara, who wanders through the world a penniless and naked 


facts of song. The European art scale has been reduced to 
twelve fixed notes by merging nearly identical intervals such as 
D sharp and E flat, and it is also tempered to facilitate modulation 
and free change of key. In other words, the piano is out of 
tune by hypothesis. Only this compromise, necessitated in the 
development of harmony, has made possible the triumphs of 
modern orchestration. A purely melodic art, however, may be 
no less intensely cultivated, and remains the advantages of pure 
intonation and modal colouring. 

Apart from the keyed instruments of modern Europe there 
scarcely exists an absolutely fixed scale: at any rate, in India 
the thing fixed is a group of intervals, and the precise vibration 
value of a note depends on its position in a progression, not on 
its relation to a tonic. The scale of twenty- two notes is simply 
the sum of all the notes used in all the songs no musician sings 
a chromatic scale from C to C with twenty-two stopping places, 
for this would be a mere tour de force. 

"* The 'quarter- tone' or sruti is the microtonal interval between 
two successive scale notes: but as the theme rarely employs 
two and never three scale notes in succession, the microtonal 
interval is not generally conspicuous except in ornament. 

Every Indian song is said to be in a particular raga or rdgim 
ragim being the feminine of raga, and indicating an abridge- 
ment or modification of the main theme. The raga, like the old 
Greek and the ecclesiastical mode, is a selection of five, six, or 
seven notes, distributed along the scale; but the raga is more 
particularized than a mode, for it has certain characteristic pro- 
gressions, and a chief note to which the singer constantly returns. 
None of the ragas employs more than seven substantive notes, and 
there is no modulation: the strange tonality of the Indian song 
is due to the use of unfamiliar intervals, and not to the use of 
many successive notes with small divisions. 

The raga may be best defined as a melody-mould or the ground 
plan of a song. It is this ground plan which the master first of 
all communicates to the pupil; and to sing is to improvise upon 
the theme thus defined. The possible number of ragas is very 
large, but the majority of systems recognise thirty-six, that is to 
say six ragas, each with five ragims. The origin of the ragas 
is various : some, like Pahari, are derived from local folk-song, 
others, like Jog, from the songs of wandering ascetics, and still 



Ratan Devi, singer of Indian songs in America 
(Photograph by Arnold Genthe.) 


others are the creation of great musicians by whose names they 
are known. More than sixty are mentioned in a Sanskrit-Tibetan 
vocabulary of the seventh century, with names such as 'With-a- 
voice-like-a-thunder-cloud/ 'Like-the-god-Indra/ and 'Delighting- 
the heart/ Amongst the raga names in modern use may be cited 
'Spring/ Evening beauty/ 'Honey-flower/ 'The swing/ 'Intoxi- 

Psychologically the word raga, meaning colouring or passion, 
suggests to Indian ears the idea of mood ; that is to say that pre- 
cisely as in ancient Greece, the musical mode has definite ethos. 
It is not the purpose of the song to repeat the confusion of life, 
but to express and arouse particular passions of body and soul 
in man and nature. Each raga is associated with an hour of 
the day or night when it may be appropriately sung, and some 
are associated with particular seasons or have definite magic 
effects. Thus there is still believed the well-known story of a 
musician whose royal patron arbitrarily insisted on hearing a 
song in the Dlpak raga, which creates fire: the musician obeyed 
under protest, but as the song proceeded, he burst into flames, 
which could not be extinguished even though he sprang into the 
waters of the Jamna. It is just because of this element of magic, 
and the association of he ragas with the rhythmic ritual of daily 
and seasonal life, that their clear outlines must not be blurred by 
modulation: and this is expressed, when the ragas are personi- 
fied as musical genii, by saying that 'to sing out of the raga' is 
to break the limbs of these musical angels. A characteristic story 
is related of the prophet Narada, when he was still but a learner. 
He thought that he had mastered the whole art of music; but 
the all-wise Vishnu, to curb his pride, revealed to him in the 
world of the gods, a spacious building where there lay men and 
women weeping over their broken arms and legs. They were 
the ragas and ragims, and they said that a certain sage of the 
name of Narada, ignorant of music and unskillful in performance, 
had sung them amiss, and therefore their features were distorted 
and their limbs broken, and until they were sung truly there would 
be no cure for them. Then Narada was humbled, and kneeling 
before Vishnu prayed to be taught the art of music more per- 
fectly: and in due course he became the great musician priest 
of the gods. 

Indian music is a purely melodic art, devoid of any harmonised 


accompaniment other than a drone. In modern European art, 
the meaning of each note of the theme is mainly brought out by 
the notes of the chord which are heard with it; and even in 
unaccompanied melody, the musician hears an implied harmony. 
Unaccompanied folk-song does not satisfy the concert-goer's ear ; 
as pure melody it is the province only of the peasant and the 
specialist. This is partly because the folk-air played on the 
piano or written in staff notation is actually falsified; but much 
more because under the conditions of European art, melody no 
longer exists in its own right, and music is a compromise between 
melodic freedom and harmonic necessity. To hear the music of 
India as Indians hear it one must recover the sense of a pure 
intonation and must forget all implied harmonies. It is just like 
the effort which we have to make when for the first time, after 
being accustomed to modern art, we attempt to read the language 
of early Italian or Chinese painting, where there is expressed 
with equal economy of means all that intensity of experience 
which nowadays we are accustomed to understand only through 
a more involved technique. 

Another feature of Indian song and so also of the instru- 
mental solo is the elaborate grace. It is natural that in Europe, 
where many notes are heard simultaneously, grace should appear 
as an unnecessary elaboration, added to the note, rather than a 
structural factor. But in India the note and the microtonal 
grace compose a closer unity, for the grace fulfils just that func- 
tion of adding light and shade which in harmonised music is 
attained by the varying degrees of assonance. The Indian song 
without grace would seem to Indian ears as bald as the European 
art song without the accompaniment which it presupposes. 

Equally distinctive is the constant portamento, or rather, 
glissando. In India it is far more the interval than the note that 
is sung or played, and we recognize accordingly a continuity of 
sound: by contrast with this, the European song, which is verti- 
cally divided by the harmonic interest and the nature of the 
keyed instruments which are heard with the voice, seems to un- 
accustomed Indian ears to be "full of holes." 

All the songs, except the 'alaps' are in strict rhythms. These 
are only difficult to follow at a first hearing because the Indian 
rhythms are founded, as in prosody, on contrasts of long and 
short duration, while European rhythms are based on stress, as 



TodI Ragim (a musical mode). Rajput painting, 16th century Museum of Fine 

Arts, Boston. 


in dance or marching. The Indian musician does not mark the 
beginning of the bar by accent. His fixed unit is a section, or 
group of bars which are not necessarily alike, while the Euro- 
pean fixed unit is typically the bar, of which a varying number 
constitute a section. The European rhythm is counted in mul- 
tiples of 2 or 3, the Hindu in sums of 2 or 3. Some of the 
countings are very elaborate: Ata Tala, for example, is counted 
as 5 plus 5 plus 2 plus 2. The frequent use of cross rhythms 
also complicates the form. Indian music is modal in times as 
well as melody. For all these reasons it is difficult to grasp 
immediately the point at which a rhythm begins and ends, although 
this is quite easy for the Indian audience accustomed to quanti- 
tative poetic recitation. The best way to approach the Indian 
rhythm is to pay attention to the phrasing, and ignore pulsation. 

The Indian art-song is accompanied by drums, or by the instru- 
ment known as a tambura, or by both. The tambura is of the 
lute tribe, but without frets : the four very long strings are tuned 
to sound the dominant, the upper tonic twice, and the octave 
below, which are common to all ragas: the pitch is adjusted to 
suit the singer's voice. The four strings are fitted with simple 
resonators shreds of wool between the string and the bridge 
which are the source of their 'life' : and the strings are continu- 
ously sounded, making a pedal point background very rich in 
overtones, and against this dark ground of infinite potentiality 
the song stands out like an elaborate embroidery. The tambura 
must not be regarded as a solo instrument, nor as an object of 
separate interest like the piano accompaniment of a modern song: 
its sound is rather the ambient in which the song lives and moves 
and has its being. 

India has, besides the tambura, many solo instruments. By 
far the most important of these is the vlna. This classic instru- 
ment, which ranks with the violin of Europe and the koto of 
Japan, and second only to the voice in sensitive response, differs 
chiefly from the tambura in having frets, the notes being made 
with the left hand and the strings plucked with the right. The 
delicate nuances of microtonal grace are obtained by deflection 
of the strings, whole passages being played in this manner solely 
by a lateral movement of the left hand, without a fresh plucking. 
While the only difficulty in playing the tambura is to maintain 
an even rhythm independently of the song, the vlna presents all 


the difficulties of technique that can be imagined, and it is said 
that at least twelve years are required to attain proficiency. 

The Indian singer is a poet, and the poet a singer. The 
dominant subject matter of the songs is human or divine love in 
all its aspects, or the direct praise of God, and the words are 
always sincere and passionate. The more essentially the singer 
is a musician, however, the more the words are regarded merely 
as the vehicle of the music: in art-song the words are always 
brief, voicing a mood rather than telling any story, and they are 
used to support the music with little regard to their own logic 
precisely as the representative element in a modern painting 
merely serves as the basis for an organisation of pure form or 
coulour. In the musical form called aldp an improvisation on 
the raga theme, this preponderance of the music is carried so far 
that only meaningless syllables are used. The voice itself is a 
musical instrument, and the song is more than the words of the 
song. This form is especially favoured by the Indian virtuoso, 
who naturally feels a certain contempt for those whose first 
interest in the song is connected with the words. The voice has 
thus a higher status than in Europe, for the music exists in its 
own right and not merely to illustrate the words. Rabindranath 
Tagore has written on this : 

When I was very young I heard the song, 'Who dressed you like 
a foreigner?', and that one line of the song painted such a strange 
picture in my mind that even now it is sounding in my memory. I 
once tried to compose a song myself under the spell of that line. As 
I hummed the tune, I wrote the first line of the song, 'I know thee, 
thou stranger/ and if there were no tune to it, I cannot tell what 
meaning would be left in the song. But by the power of the spell 
of the tune the mysterious figure of that stranger was evoked in my 
mind. My heart began to say, 'There is a stranger going to and 
fro in this world of ours her house is on the further shore of an 
ocean of mystery sometimes she is to be seen in the autumn morning, 
sometimes in the flowery midnight sometimes we receive an intima- 
tion of her in the depths of our heart sometimes I hear her voice 
when I turn my ear to the sky.' The tune of my song led me to the 
very door of that stranger who ensnares the universe and appears 
in it, and I said: 

'Wandering over the world 

I come to thy land : 

I am a guest at thy door, thou stranger.' 

One day, many days afterwards, there was someone going along the 
road singing: 

'How does that unknown bird go to and away from the cage? 
Could I but catch it, I would set the chain of my mind about its feet!' 




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Madhu-madhavl Ragim (a musical mode). 'The sweet, sweet rumbling of thunder 
is heard. ' Rajput painting, 16th century. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 


I saw that that folk-song, too, said the very same thing! Sometimes 
the unknown bird comes to the closed cage and speaks a word of the 
limitless unknown the mind would keep it forever, but cannot. What 
but the tune of a song could report the coming and going of that 
unknown bird? Because of this I always feel a hesitation in publish- 
ing a book of songs, for in such a book the main thing is left out. 

This Indian music is essentially impersonal: it reflects an 
emotion and an experience which are deeper and wider and older 
than the emotion or wisdom of any single individual. Its sorrow 
is without tears, its joy without exultation and it is passionate 
without any loss of serenity. It is in the deepest sense of the 
words all-human. But when the Indian prophet speaks of inspira- 
tion, it is to say that the Vedas are eternal, and all that the poet 
achieves by his devotion is to hear or see: it is then Sarasvati, 
the goddess of speech and learning, or Narada, whose mission it 
is to disseminate occult knowledge in the sound of the strings of 
his vina, or Krishna, whose flute is forever calling us to leave the 
duties of the world and follow Him it is these, rather than any 
human individual, who speak through the singer's voice, and are 
seen in the movements of the dancer. 

Or we may say that this is an imitation of the music in heaven. 
The master musicians of India are always represented as the 
pupils of a god, or as visiting the heavenworld to learn there the 
music of the spheres that is to say, their knowledge springs 
from a source far within the surface of the empirical activity 
of the waking consciousness. In this connection it is explained 
why it is that human art must be studied, and may not be identi- 
fied with the imitation of our everyday behaviour.* When Siva \ j 
expounds the technique of the drama to Bharata the famous 
author of the Natya Sastra he declares that human art must be 
subject to law, because in man the inner and outer life are still 
in conflict. Man has not yet found Himself, but all his activity 
proceeds from a laborious working of the mind, and all his virtue 
is self-conscious. What we call our life is uncoordinated, and 
far from the harmony of art, which rises above good and evil. 
It is otherwise with the gods, whose every gesture immediately 
reflects the affections of the inner life. Art is an imitation of 
that perfect spontaneity the identity of intuition and expression 
in those who are of the kingdom of heaven, which is within us. 

* This is like the principle of ' conscious control ' advanced by F. M. 
Alexander in Man's Supreme Inheritance. 


Thus it is that art is nearer to life than any fact can be; and Mr. 
Yeats has reason when he says that Indian music, though its 
theory is elaborate and its technique so difficult, is not an art, 
but life itself. 

For it is the inner reality of things, rather than any transient 
or partial experience that the singer voices. "Those who sing 
here," says Sankaracharya, "sing God" : and the Vishnu Purana 
adds, "All songs are a part of Him, who wears a form of sound/' 1 
We could deduce from this a metaphysical interpretation of 
technique. In all art there are monumental and articulate ele- 
ments, masculine and feminine factors which are unified in 
perfect form. We have here the sound of the tambura which is 
heard before the song, during the song, and continues after it: 
that is the timeless Absolute, which as it was in the beginning, 
is now and ever shall be. On the other hand there is the song 
itself which is the variety of Nature, emerging from its source 
and returning at the close of its cycle. The harmony of that 
undivided Ground with this intricate Pattern is the unity of 
Spirit and Matter. We see from this why this music could not 
be improved by harmonisation, even if harmonisation were pos- 
sible without destroying the modal bases : for in breaking up the 
ground into an articulate accompaniment, we should merely create 
a second melody, another universe, competing with the freedom of 
the song itself, and we should destroy the peace on which it rests. 

This would defeat the purpose of the singer. Here in this 
ego-conscious world we are subject to mortality. But this mor- 
tality is an illusion, and all its truths are relative: over against 
this world of change and separation there is a timeless and space- 
less Peace which is the source and goal of all our being "that 
noble Pearl," in the words of Behmen, "which to the World 
appears Nothing, but to the Children of Wisdom is All Things/' 
Every religious teacher offers us those living waters. But the 
way is hard and long: we are called upon to leave houses and 
lands, fathers and mothers and wives to achieve an end which 
in our imperfect language we can only speak of as Non-existence. 
Many of us have great possessions, and the hardest of these to 
surrender are our own will and identity. What guarantee have 
we that the reward will be commensurate with the sacrifice ? 

1 Cf. the Granth Sahib (Japji xxvii) : "How many musicians, how many 
ragas and raginis and how many singers sing Thee?" 



Todi Ragini (a musical mode). Rajput painting, 18th century. Calcutta School 

of Art. 


Indian theory declares that in the ecstasies of love and art we 
already receive an intimation of that redemption. This is also 
the katharsis of the Greeks, and it is found in the aesthetic of 
modern Europe when Goethe says 

For beauty they have sought in every age 

He who perceives it is from himself set free 

aus sich entriickt. We are assured by the experience of aesthetic 
contemplation that Paradise is a reality. 

In other words the magical effects of a song in working mere 
miracles are far surpassed by its effects upon our inner being. 
The singer is still a magician, and the song is a ritual, a sacred 
ceremony, an ordeal which is designed to set at rest that wheel 
of the imagination and the senses which alone hinder us from 
contact with reality. But to achieve this ordeal the hearer 
must cooperate with the musician by the surrender of the will, 
and by drawing in his restless thought to a single point of con- 
centration: this is not the time or place for curiosity or admira- 
tion. Our attitude towards an unknown art should be far from 
the sentimental or romantic, for it can bring us nothing that we 
have not already with us in our own hearts: the peace of the 
Abyss which underlies all art is one and the same, whether we 
find it in Europe or in Asia. 


In the Mahabharata there is reported a conversation between 
Siva and Uma. The Great God asks her to describe the duties 
of women, addressing her, in so doing, in terms which acknowl- 
edge her perfect attainment of the highest wisdom possible to 
man or god terms which it would be hard to parallel anywhere 
in western literature. He says : 

"Thou that dost know the Self and the not-Self, expert in every 
work: endowed with self-restraint and perfect same-sightedness 
towards every creature : free from the sense of I and my thy power 
and energy are equal to my own, and thou hast practised the most 
severe discipline. O Daughter of Himalaya, of fairest eyebrows, 
and whose hair ends in the fairest curls, expound to me the duties 
of women in full." 

Then She, who is queen of heaven, and yet so sweetly human, 
answers : 

"The duties of woman are created in the rites of wedding, when 
in presence of the nuptial fire she becomes the associate of her Lord, 
for the performance of all righteous deeds. She should be beautiful 
and gentle, considering her husband as her god and serving him as 
such in fortune and misfortune, health and sickness, obedient even 
if commanded to unrighteous deeds or acts that may lead to her own 
destruction. She should rise early, serving the gods, always keeping 
her house clean, tending to the domestic sacred fire, eating only 
after the needs of gods and guests and servants have been satisfied, 
devoted to her father and mother and the father and mother of her 
husband. Devotion to her Lord is woman's honour, it is her eternal 
heaven ; and O Mahesvara," 

she adds, with a most touching human cry, 

"I desire not paradise itself if thou are not satisfied with me!" 

"She is a true wife who gladdens her husband," says Raja- 
sekhara in the Karpura ManjarL The extract following is from 
the Laws of Manu : 

"Though destitute of virtue, or seeking pleasure elsewhere, or 
devoid of good qualities, a husband must be constantly worshipped 
as a god by a faithful wife . . . If a wife obeys her husband, she 
will for that reason alone be exalted in heaven." 


"The production of children, the nurture of those born, and the 
daily life of men, of these matters woman is visibly the cause." 

"She who controlling her thoughts, speech and acts, violates not 
her duty to her Lord, dwells with him after death in heaven, and in 
this world is called by the virtuous a faithful wife." 

Similar texts from a variety of Indian sources could be indefi- 
nitely multiplied. 

If such are the duties of women, women are accorded corres- 
ponding honour, and exert a corresponding influence upon society. 
This power and influence do not so much belong to the merely 
young and beautiful, nor to the wealthy, as to those who have 
lived mothers and grandmothers or who follow a religious 
discipline widows or nuns. According to Manu: 'A master 
j exceedeth ten tutors in claim to honour; the father a hundred 
| masters ; but the mother a thousand fathers in right to reverence 
/ and in the function of teacher/ When Rama accepted Kaikeyi's 
I decree of banishment, it was because ' a mother should be as 
much regarded by a son as is a father/ Even at the present day 
it would be impossible to over-emphasize the influence of Indian 
mothers not only upon their children and in all household affairs, 
but upon their grown-up sons to whom their word is law. Ac- 
cording to my observation, it is only those sons who have received 
an 'English' education in India who no longer honour their fathers// 
and mothers. 

No story is more appropriate than that of Madalasa and her son 
Vikranta to illustrate the position of the Indian mother as teacher. 
As Vikranta grew up day by day, the Markandeya Purana relates, 
Madalasa 'taught him knowledge of the Self 1 by ministering to 
him in sickness ; and as he grew in strength and there waxed in 
him his father's heart, he attained to knowledge of the Self by 
his mother's words/ And these were Madalasa's words, spoken 
to the baby crying on her lap: 

"My child, thou art without a name or form, and it is but in 
fantasy that thou hast been given a name. This thy body, framed 
of the five elements, is not thine in sooth, nor art thou of it. Why 
dost thou weep? Or, maybe, thou weepest not; it is a sound 
self-born that cometh forth from the king's son .... In the body 

1 'Knowledge of the Self the Adhyatmavidyd referred to above, p. 7. 


dwells another self, and therewith abideth not the thought that 
This is mine/ which appertaineth to the flesh. Shame that man 
is so deceived!" 

Even in recent times, in families where the men have received 
an English education unrelated to Indian life and thought, the 
inheritance of Indian modes of thought and feeling rests in the 
main with women; for a definite philosophy of life is bound up 
with household ritual and traditional etiquette and finds expres- 
sion equally in folk-tale and cradle-song and popular poetry, and 
in those pauranic and epic stories which constitute the household 
Bible literature of India. Under these conditions it is often 
the case that Indian women, with all their faults of sentimentality 
and ignorance, have remained the guardians of a spiritual culture 
which is of greater worth than the efficiency and information of 
the educated. 

It is according to the Tantrik scriptures^ devoted to the cult 
of the Mother of the World, that women, who partake of her 
nature more essentially than other living beings, are especially 
honoured; here the woman may be a spiritual teacher (guru), 
and the initation of a son by a mother is more fruitful than any 
other. One doubts how far this may be of universal application, 
believing with Paracelsus that woman is nearer to the world than 
man, of which the evidence appears in her always more personal 
point of view. But all things are possible to women such as 

The claim of the Buddhist nun 'How should the woman's 
nature hinder us?' has never been systematically denied in 
India. It would have been contrary to the spirit of Indian culture 
to deny to individual women the opportunity of saintship or 
learning in the sense of closing to them the schools of divinity 
or science after the fashion of the Western academies in the 
nineteenth century. But where the social norm is found in mar- 
riage and parenthood for men and women alike, it could only 
have been in exceptional cases and under exceptional circum- 
stances that the latter specialised, whether in divinity, like Auvvai, 
Mira Bal, or the Buddhist nuns, in science, like Lilavati, or in war, 
like Chand Bib! or the Rani of JhansT. Those set free to cultivate 
expert knowledge of science or to follow with undivided allegi- 
ance either religion or any art, could only be the sannyasinl or 
devotee, the widow, and the courtesan. A majority of women 



A Hindu lady at her toilet. Rajput drawing, 18th century. Collection of 

the author. 


have always, and naturally, preferred marriage and motherhood 
to either of these conditions. But those who felt the call of reli- 
gion, those from whom a husband's death removed the central 
motif of their life, and those trained from childhood as expert 
artists, have always maintained a great tradition in various 
branches of cultural activity, such as social service or music. 
What we have to observe is that Hindu sociologists have always 1 \ 
regarded these specializations as more or less incompatible with f 
wifehood and motherhood ; life is not long enough for the achieve- { I 
ment of many different things. 

Hinduism justifies no cult of ego-expression, but aims con- 
sistently at spiritual freedom. Those who are conscious of a 
sufficient inner life become the more indifferent to outward ex- 
pression of their own or any changing personality. The ultimate 
purposes of Hindu social discipline are that men should unify 
their individuality with a wider and deeper than individual life, 
should fulfil appointed tasks regardless of failure or success, 
distinguish the timeless from its shifting forms, and escape the 
all-too-narrow prison of the 'I and mine. 1 

Anonymity is thus in accordance with the truth; and it 
is one of the proudest distinctions of the Hindu culture. 
The names of the 'authors' of the epics are but shadows, 
and in later ages it was a constant practise of writers to 
suppress their own names and ascribe their work to a mythical 
or famous poet, thereby to gain a better attention for the truth 
that they would rather claim to have 'heard* than to have 'made.' 
Similarly, scarcely a single Hindu painter or sculptor is known 
by name; and the entire range of Sanskrit literature cannot 
exhibit a single autobiography and but little history. Why should 
women have sought for modes of self-advertisement that held no 
lure even for men? The governing concept of Hindu ethics is 
vocation (dharma) ; the highest merit consists in the fulfilment of 
'one's own duty/ in other words, in dedication to one's calling. 
Indian society was highly organized ; and where it was considered 
wrong for a man to fulfil the duties of another man rather than 
his own, how much more must a confusion of function as between 
woman and man have seemed wrong, where differentiation is so 
much more evident. In the words of Manu : To be mothers were \ 
women created, and to be fathers men ;' and he adds significantly j 
'therefore are religious sacraments ordained in the Veda to be ; 


observed by the husband together with the wife.' 1 

The Asiatic theory of marriage, which would have been per- 
fectly comprehensible in the Middle Ages, before the European 
woman had become an economic parasite, and which is still very 
little removed from that of Roman or Greek Christianity, is not 
readily intelligible to the industrial democratic consciousness of 
Europe and America, which is so much more concerned for rights 
than for duties, and desires more than anything else to be released 
from responsibilities regarding such release as freedom. It is 
thus that Western reformers would awaken a divine discontent 
in the hearts of Oriental women, forgetting that the way of ego- 
assertion cannot be a royal road to realisation of the Self. The 
industrial mind is primarily sentimental, and therefore cannot 
reason clearly upon love and marriage; but the Asiatic analysis 

ii is philosophic, religious and practical. 

Current Western theory seeks to establish marriage on a basis 
of romantic love and free choice; marriage thus depends on 
the accident of 'falling in love/ Those who are 'crossed in love* 

, or do not love are not required to marry. This individualistic 
position, however, is only logically defensible if at the same time 
it is recognized that to fall out of love must end the marriage. 
It is a high and religious ideal which justifies sexual relations only 
as the outward expression demanded by passionate love and re- 
gards an intimacy continued or begun for mere pleasure, or for 
reasons of prudence, or even as a duty, as essentially immoral; 
it is an ideal which isolated individuals and groups have constantly 
upheld; and it may be that the ultimate development of idealistic 
individualism will tend to a nearer realisation of it. But do not let 
us deceive ourselves that because the Western marriage is nomi- 
nally founded upon free choice, it therefore secures a permanent 
unity of spiritual and physical passion. On the contrary, perhaps 
in a majority of cases, it holds together those who are no longer 
'in love'; habit, considerations of prudence, or, if there are chil- 
dren, a sense of duty often compel the passionless continuance of 
a marriage for the initiation of which romantic love was felt to 
be a sine qua non. Those who now live side by side upon a basis 

1 Jahangir observes in his 'Memoirs' that the Hindu woman 'is the 
half of a man. and his companion in religious ceremonies.' Cf. the Prema 
Sagara, ch. xxiv: 'without a wife a sacrifice is not fruitful.' 



Chand Bibi, called Chand Sultan. Defender of Ahmadnagar against Akbar, 1695. 
Rajput painting, 18th century. Collection of Lady Herringham. 


of affection and common interest would not have entered upon 
marriage on this basis alone. 

If the home is worth preserving under modern conditions and 
in India at any rate, the family is still the central element of social 
organization, then probably the 'best solution' will always be 
found in some such compromise as is implied in a more or less 
permanent marriage; though greater tolerance than is now usual 
must be accorded to exceptions above and below the norm. What 
are we going to regard as the constructive basis of the normal 
marriage ? 

For Hindu sociologists marriage is a social and ethical relation- 
ship, and the begetting of children the payment of a debt. Ro- 
mantic love is a brief experience of timeless freedom, essentially 
religious and ecstatic, in itself as purely antisocial as every glimpse 
of Union is a denial of the Relative; it is the way of Mary. It * 
is true the glamour of this experience may persist for weeks and 
months, when the whole of life is illumined by the partial merg- 
ing of the consciousness of the lover and beloved; but sooner or 
later in almost every case there must follow a return to the world 
of unreality, and that insight which once endowed the beloved 
with innumerable perfections fades in the light of commonsense. 
The lovers are fortunate if there remains to them a basis of com- 
mon interest and common duty and a mutuality of temperament 
adequate for friendship, affection and forbearance; upon this 
chance depends the possibility of happiness during the greater 
part of almost every married life. The Hindu marriage differs 
from the marriage of sentiment mainly in putting these considera- 
tions first. Here, as elsewhere, happiness will arise from the ful- 
filment of vocation, far more than when immediate satisfaction 
is made the primary end. I use the term vocation advisedly ; for 
the Oriental marriage, like the Oriental actor's art, is the fulfil- 
ment of a traditional design, and does not depend upon the acci- 
dents of sensibility. To be such a man as Rama, such a wife as 
Sita, rather than to express 'oneself/ is the aim. The formula is 
predetermined ; husband and wife alike have parts to play; and 
it is from this point of view that we can best understand the 
meaning of Manu's law, that a wife should look on her husband 
as a god, regardless of his personal merit or demerits it would 
be beneath her dignity to deviate from a woman's norm merely 
because of the failure of a man. It is for her own sake and for 


the sake of the community, rather than for his alone, that life 
must be attuned to the eternal unity of Purusha and Prakriti. 

Whatever the ultimate possibilities of Western individualism, 
Hindu society was established on a basis of group morality. It is 
true that no absolute ethic is held binding on all classes alike; 
but within a given class the freedom of the individual is subordi- 
nated to the interest of the group, the concept of duty is para- 
mount. How far this concept of duty trenches on the liberty of 
the individual may be seen in Rama's repudiation of Sita, subse- 
quent to the victory in Lanka and the coronation at Ayodhya; 
although convinced of her perfect fidelity, Rama, who stands in 
epic history as the mirror of social ethics, consents to banish his 
wife, because the people murmur against her. The argument is 
that if the king should receive back a wife who had been living 
in another man's house, albeit faithful, popular morality would 
be endangered, since others might be moved by love and par- 
tiality to a like rehabilitation but with less justification. Thus the 
social order is placed before the happiness of the individual, 
whether man or woman. This is the explanation of the greater 
peace which distinguishes the arranged marriage of the East from 
the self-chosen marriage of the West ; where there is no deception 
there can be no disappointment. And since the conditions on 
which it is founded do not change, it is logical that Hindu mar- 
riage should be indissoluble; only when social duties have been 
fulfilled and social debts paid, is it permissible for the householder 
to relinquish simultaneously the duties and the rights of the social 
individual. It is also logical that when the marriage is childless, it 
is permissible to take a second wife with the consent and often 
at the wish of the first. 

It is sometimes asked, what opportunities are open to the Ori- 
ental woman? How can she express herself? The answer is 
that life is so designed that she is given the opportunity to be a 
woman in other words, to realise, rather than to express herself. 
It is possible that modern Europe errs in the opposite direction. 
We must also remember that very much which passes for edu- 
cation nowadays is superficial ; some of it amounts to little more 
than parlor tricks, and nothing is gained by communicating this 
condition to Asia, where I have heard of modern parents who 
desired that their daughters should be taught 'a little French' or 'a 
few strokes on the violin/ The arts in India are professional and 



Hindu marriage. From a Mughal painting, about 1600. 


vocational, demanding undivided service; nothing is taught to 
the amateur by way of social accomplishment or studied super- 
ficially. And woman represents the continuity of the racial life, 
an energy which cannot be divided or diverted without a corres- 
ponding loss of racial vitality ; she can no more desire to be some- 
thing other than herself, than the Vaishya could wish to be known 
as a Kshattriya, or the Kshattriya, as a Brahman. 

It has been shown in fact, some seventy-five per cent, of West- 
ern graduate women do not marry; and apart from these, if 
it be true that five-sixths of a child's tendencies and activities 
are already determined before it reaches school age, and that the 
habits then deeply rooted cannot be greatly modified, if it be true 
that so much depends on deliberate training while the instincts 
of the child are still potential and habits unformed, can we say 
that women whose social duties or pleasures, or self -elected 
careers or unavoidable wage slavery draws them into the outer 
world, are fulfilling their duty to the race, or as we should say, 
the debt of the ancestors ? The modern suffragist declares that the 
state has no right to demand of woman, whether directly or 
indirectly, by bribe or pressure of opinion, that she consider her- 
self under any obligation, in return for the protection afforded 
her, to produce its future citizens. But we are hardly likely to 
see this point of view accepted in these days when the right of 
society to conscript the bodies of men is almost universally con- 
ceded. It is true that many who do not acquiesce in the existing 
industrial order are prepared to resist conscription in the military 
sense, that is to say, conscription for destruction; but we are 
becoming accustomed to the idea of another kind of conscription, 
or rather co-operation, based on service, and indeed, according 
to either of the two dynamic theories of a future society the 
syndicalist and the individualistic it must appear that without 
the fulfilment of function there can exist no rights. From the co- 
operative point of view society has an absolute right to compel 
its members to fulfil the functions that are necessary to it; and 
only those who, like the anchorite, voluntarily and entirely re- 
nounce the advantages of society and the protection of law have 
a right to ignore the claims of society. 1 From the individualist 

1 A vigorous society can well afford to support, and in the interests of 
spiritual values will gladly support, so far as support is necessary, not 
only thinkers and artists, whose function is obvious, but also a certain 


point of view, on the other hand, the fulfilment of function is 
regarded as a spontaneous activity, as is even now true in the 
cases of the thinker and the artist ; but even the individualist does 
not expect to get something for nothing, and the last idea he has is 
.to compel the service of others. 

I doubt if anyone will deny that it is the function or nature of 
women, as a group not necessarily in every individual case in 
general, to be mothers, alike in spiritual and physical senses. 
What we have to do then, is not to assert the liberty of women to 
deny the duty or right of motherhood, however we regard it, but 
to accord this function a higher protection and honour than it 
now receives. And here, perhaps, there is still something to be 
learnt in Asia. There the pregnant woman is auspicious, and 
receives the highest respect; whereas in many industrial and 
secular Western societies she is an object of more or less open 
ridicule, she is ashamed to be seen abroad, and tries to conceal 
her condition, sometimes even by means that are injurious to her 
own and the child's health. That this was not the case in a more 
vital period of European civilization may be seen in all the 
' literature and art of the Middle Ages, and particularly in the 
status of the Virgin Mary, whose motherhood endeared her to 
the folk so much more nearly than her virginity. 

To avoid misunderstanding, let me say in passing, that in 
depicting the life of Hindu women as fulfilling a great ideal, 
I do not mean to indicate the Hindu social formula as a thing to 
be repeated or imitated. This would be a view as futile as that 
of the Gothic revival in architecture; the reproduction of period 
furniture does not belong to life. A perfection that has been can 
never be a perfection for us. 

Marriage was made for man, not man for marriage. One would 
gladly accept for Europe very soon, and for Asia in due time, 
temporary marriage, the endowment of motherhood, and matri- 
archal succession, or whatever other forms our own spiritual and 
economic necessity may determine for us not because such 
forms may be absolutely better than the Asiatic or mediaeval 
European institutions, but because they correspond more nearly 

number of thorough-going rebels who to all appearances are mere idlers. 
But the idler, whether anchorite or courtezan, must not demand to be 
supported in luxury, and must recognize that whatever he or she receives 
is given in love, and not according to law. 



Radha in her kitchen: Krishna at the window. Rajput painting. 18th century. 

Lahore Museum. 


to our inner life. In comparing one social order with another, I 
have no faith in any millennium past or future, but only in the 
best attainable adaptation of means to ends; and, 'let the ends 
determine the means/ should be the evidence of our idealism. 

Let us now return to the Indian Sati and try to understand her 
better. The root meaning of the word is essential being, and 
we have so far taken it only in the wide sense. But she who 
refuses to live when her husband is dead is called Sati in a more 
special sense, and it is only so that the word (suttee) is well- 
known to Europeans. This last proof of the perfect unity of body 
and soul, this devotion beyond the grave, has been chosen by many 
Western critics as our reproach ; we differ from them in thinking 
of our 'suttees' not with pity, but with understanding, respect, and 
love. So far from being ashamed of our 'suttees' we take a pride 
in them; that is even true of the most 'progressive' amongst us. 
It is very much like the tenderness which our children's children 
may some day feel for those of their race who were willing to 
throw away their lives for 'their country right or wrong,' though 
the point of view may seem to us then, as it seems to so many 
already, evidence rather of generosity than balanced judgment. 
The criticism we make on the institution of Sati and woman's 
blind devotion is similar to the final judgment we are about to 
pass on patriotism. We do not, as pragmatists may, resent the 
denial of the ego for the sake of an absolute, or attach an undue 
importance to mere life; on the contrary we see clearly that the 
. reckless and useless sacrifice of the 'suttee' and the patriot is 
j spiritually significant. And what remains perpetually clear is 
y the superiority of the reckless sacrifice to the calculating assertion 
' of rights. Criticism of the position of the Indian woman from 
the ground of assertive feminism, therefore, leaves us entirely 
unmoved : precisely as the patriot must be unmoved by an appeal 
to self-interest or a merely utilitarian demonstration of futility. 
We do not object to dying for an idea as 'suttees' and patriots 
have died ; but we see that there may be other and greater ideas 
we can better serve by living for them. 

For some reason it has come to be believed that Sati must have 
been a man-made institution imposed on women by men for 
reasons of their own, that it is associated with feminine servility, 
and that it is peculiar to India. We shall see that these views are 
historically unsound. It is true that in aristocratic circles Sati 


became to some degree a social convention, 1 and pressure was put 
on unwilling individuals, precisely as conscripts are even now 
forced to suffer or die for other people's ideas ; and from this 
point of view we cannot but be glad that it was prohibited by law 
in 1829 on the initiative of Raja Rammohun Roy. But now 
that nearly a century has passed it should not be difficult to 
review the history and significance of Satl more dispassionately 
than was possible in the hour of controversy and the atmosphere 
of religious prejudice. 

It is not surprising that the idea of Sat! occupies a considerable 
place in Indian literature. Parvati herself, who could not endure 
the insults levelled against her husband by her father, is the proto- 
type of all others. In the early Tamil lyrics we read of an earthly 
bride whom the Brahmans seek to dissuade from the sacrifice; 
but she answers that since her lord is dead, the cool waters of the 
the lotus pool and the flames of the funeral pyre are alike to her. 
Another pleads to share her hero's grave, telling the potter that 
she has fared with her lord over many a desert plain, and ask- 
ing him to make the funeral urn large enough for both. Later 
in history we read of the widowed mother of Harsha that she 
replied to her son's remonstrances : 

"I am the lady of a great house ; have you forgotten that I am 
the lioness-mate of a great spirit, who, like a lion, had his delight 
in a hundred battles?" 

A man of such towering genius and spirituality as Kabir so 
takes for granted the authenticity of the impulse to Sati that he 
constantly uses it as an image of surrender of the ego to God ; and 
indeed, in all Indian mystical literature the love-relation of woman 
to man is taken unhesitatingly as an immediate reflection of spiri- 
tual experience. This is most conspicuous in all the Radha- 
Krishna literature. But here let us notice more particularly the 
beautiful and very interesting poem of Muhammad Riza Nau'i, 
written in the reign of Akbar upon the 'suttee' of a Hindu girl 
whose betrothed was killed on the very day of the marriage. 
This Musulman poet, to whom the Hindus were 'idolaters/ does 
not relate his story in any spirit of religious intolerance or 
ethical condescension; he is simply amazed "that after the death 
of men, the woman shows forth her marvellous passion/ He 

1 'Social conventions' are rarely 'maw-made laws' alone. 


does not wonder at the wickedness of men, but at the generosity 
of women; how different from the modern critic who can see 
no motive but self-interest behind a social phenomenon that 
passes his comprehension! 

This Hindu bride refused to be comforted and wished to be 
burnt on the pyre of her dead betrothed. When Akbar was 
informed of this, he called the girl before him and offered 
wealth and protection, but she rejected all his persuasion as 
well as the counsel of the Brahmans, and would neither speak 
nor hear of anything but the Fire. 

Akbar was forced, though reluctantly, to give his consent to 
the sacrifice, but sent with her his son Prince Daniyal who con- 
tinued to dissuade her. Even from amidst the flames, she replied 
to his remonstrances, 'Do not annoy, do not annoy, do not annoy.' 
'Ah/ exclaims the poet: 

"Let those whose hearts are ablaze with the Fire of Love learn 

courage from this pure may! 
Teach me, O God. the Way of Love, and enflame my heart with this 

maiden's Fire." 
Thus he prays for himself; and for her: 

"Do Thou, O God. exalt the head of that rare hidden virgin, whose 

purity exceeded that of the Houris. 
Do Thou endear her to the first kissing of her King, and graciously 

accept her sacrifice." 

Matter of fact accounts of more modern 'suttees' are given by 
Englishmen who have witnessed them. One which took place in 
Baroda in 1825 is described by R. Hartley Kennedy, the widow 
persisting in her intention in spite of "several fruitless endeavours 
to dissuade her." A more remarkable case is described by Sir 
Frederick Halliday. Here also a widow resisted all dissuasion, 
and finally proved her determination by asking for a lamp, and 
holding her finger in the flame until it was burnt and twisted 
like a quill pen held in the flame of a candle; all this time she 
gave no sign of fear or pain whatever. Sir F. Halliday had 
therefore to grant her wish, even as Akbar had had to do three 
centuries earlier. 

It is sometimes said by Indian apologists that at certain times 
or places in India amongst the Buddhists, or the Marathas. or 
in the epics there was no purdah; or that certain historic or 
mythic individual women were not secluded. Such statements 




ignore the fact that there are other kinds of seclusion than those 
afforded by palace walls. For example, though Rama, Laksh- 
man and Sita had lived together in forest exile for many years 
in closest affection, it is expressly stated that Lakshman had 
never raised his eyes above his brother's wife's feet, so that 
he did not even know her appearance. To speak more generally, 
it is customary for Hindus, when occasion arises for them to 
address an unknown woman, to call her 'mother' irrespective 
of her age or condition. These unseen walls are a seclusion 
equally absolute with any purdah. One result is that the streets 
of an Indian city by night are safer for a woman than those 
of any city in Europe. I have known more than one European 
woman, acquainted with India, express her strong conviction of 

Western critics have often asserted that the Oriental woman 
is a slave, and that we have made her what she is. We can only 
reply that we do not identify freedom with self-assertion, and that 
the Oriental woman is what she is, only because our social and 
religious culture has permitted her to be and to remain essentially 
feminine. Exquisite as she may be in literature and art, we dare 
not claim for ourselves as men the whole honour of creating 
such a type, however persistently the industrious industrial critic 
would thrust it upon us. 

The Eastern woman is not, at least we do not claim that she is, 
superior to other women in her innermost nature ; she is perhaps 
an older, purer and more specialised type, but certainly an uni- 
versal type, and it is precisely here that the industrial woman 
departs from type. Nobility in women does not depend upon 
race, but upon ideals; it is the outcome of a certain view of life. 

Savitri, Padmavati, Sita, Radha, Uma, LilavatI, Tara our 
divine and human heroines have an universal fellowship, for 
everything feminine is of the Mother. Who could have been 
more wholly devoted than Alcestis, more patient than Griselda, 
more loving than Deirdre, more soldier than Joan of Arc, more 
Amazon than Brynhild? 

When the Titanic sank, there were many women who refused 
perhaps mistakenly, perhaps quite rightly that was their own 
affair to be rescued without their husbands, or were only torn 
from them by force ; dramatic confirmation of the conviction that 
love-heroism is always and everywhere the same, and not only 


in India, nor only in ages past, may be stronger than death. 

I do not think that the Indian ideal has ever been the exclusive 
treasure of any one race or time, but rather, it reappears wherever 
woman is set free to be truly herself, that is wherever a suffici- 
ently religious, heroic and aesthetic culture has afforded her 
the necessary protection. Even the freedom which she seeks in 
modern self-assertion which I would grant from the stand- 
point of one who will not govern is merely an inverted concept 
of protection, and it may be that the more she is freed the more 
she will reveal the very type we have most adored in those who 
seemed to be slaves. Either way would be happier for men than 
the necessity of protecting women from themselves, and the 
tyranny of those who are not capable of friendship, being neither 
bound nor free. 

The cry of our Indian Sati, "Do not annoy, do not annoy," and 
"No one has any right over the life of another; is not that my 
own affair?" is no cry for protection from a fate she does not 
seek; it is individualistic, and has been uttered by every woman 
in the world who has followed love beyond the grave. Deirdre 
refused every offer of care and protection from Conchubar : "It 
is not land or earth or food I am wanting," she said, "or gold or 
silver or horses, but leave to go to the grave where the sons of 
Usnach are lying." Emer called to Cuchullain slain: "Love of 
my life, my friend, my sweetheart, my one choice of the men of 
the world, many is the women, wed or unwed, envied me until 
to-day, and now I will not stay living after you." 

Irish women were free, but we are used even more to look on 
the old Teutonic type as representative of free and even ama- 
zonian womanhood. We do not think of Brynhild, Shield-may and 
Victory-wafter, as compelled by men to any action against her 
will, or as weakly submissive. Yet when Sigurd was slain she 
became 'suttee* ; the prayers of Gunnar availed as little as those of 
Conchubar with Deirdre. He "laid his arms about her neck, 
and besought her to live and have wealth from him ; and all others 
in like wise letted her from dying; but she thrust them all from 
her, and said that it was not the part of any to let her in that 
which was her will." And the second heroic woman figured in the 
saga, wedded to Sigurd, though she did not die, yet cried when 
he was betrayed: 



Now am I as little 
As the leaf may be 
Amid wind-swept wood, 
Now when dead he lieth. 

"She who is courteous in her mind," says the Shacktafelsk, 
"with shyness shall her face be bright ; of all the beauties of the 
i" body, none is more shining than shyness/' This theory of 
courtesy, of supreme gentleness "full sweetly bowing down 
her head/' says the English Merlin, "as she that was shamefast," 
runs also through all mediaeval chivalry. Yet it is about this shy 
quiet being, a mystery to men, that the whole mediaeval world 
turns ; "first reserve the honour to God," says Malory, "and sec- 
ondly, the quarrel must come of thy lady." Like Uma and Sita, 
Virgin Mary is the image of a perfect being 

For in this rose conteined was 
Heaven and earth in litel space 

and for a little while, in poetry and architecture, we glimpse an 
idealisation of woman and woman's love akin to the praise of 
Radha in the contemporary songs of Chandidas and Vidyapati. 
But for our purpose even more significant than the religious 
and knightly culture, the product of less quickly changing con- 
ditions, and impressive too in its naivete, is the picture of the 
woman of the people which we can gather from folk-song and 
lyric. Here was a being obviously strong and sensible, not with- 
out knowledge of life, and by no means economically a parasite. 
If we study the folk speech anywhere in the world we shall see 
that it reveals woman, and not the man, as typically the lover; 
when her shyness allows, it is she who would pray for man's love, 
and will serve him to the utmost. Industrialism reverses this 
j jrelation, making man the suppliant and the servant, a condition 

t> unnatural as any other of its characteristic perversions. 
The woman of the folk does not bear resentment. Fair Helen, 
ho followed Child Waters on foot, and bore his child in a stable, 
is overheard singing: 

Lullaby, my owne deere child! 
I wold thy father were a king, 
Thy mother layd on a beere. 

Is she not like the Bengali Malanchamala, whose husband had 


married a second wife, and left her unloved and forgotten who 
says, "though I die now, and become a bird or a lesser creature 
or whatever befall me, I care not, for I have seen my darling 
happy ?" 

If woman under industrialism is unsatisfied, it would be diffi- 
jcult to say how much man also loses. For woman is naturally 
the lover, the bestower of life: 

Conjunction with me renders life long. 

I give youth when I enter upon amorousness. 1 

Her complaint is not that man demands too much, but that 
he will accept too little. 

Long time have I been waiting for the coming of my dear ; 
Sometimes I am uneasy and troubled in my mind, 
Sometimes I think I'll go to my lover and tell him my mind. 
But if I should go to my lover, my lover he will say me nay, 
If I show to him my boldness, he'll ne'er love me again. 2 

And it is to serve him, not to seek service from him that 
she desires: 

In the cold stormy weather, when the winds are a-blowing, 
My dear, I shall be willing to wait on you then. 3 

The Oriental woman, perhaps is not Oriental at all, but simply 
woman. If the modern woman could accept this thought, per- 
haps she would seek a new way of escape, not an escape from 
love, but a way out of industrialism. Could we not undertake this 
quest together? 

It is true that the modern woman is justified in her discontent. 
For of what has she not been robbed? The organization of society 
for competition and exploitation has made possible for the few, 
and only the very few, more physical comfort and greater security 
of life; but even these it has robbed of all poise, of the power 
to walk or to dress or to marry wisely, or to desire children or 
lovers, or to believe in any power not legally exteriorised. From 
faith in herself to a belief in votes, what a descent ! 

Decade after decade since the fourteenth century has seen her 

1 Nizami. 

2 Eastern Counties folk-song. 

3 Somerset folksong. 


influence reduced. It was paramount in religion, in poetry, in 
music, in architecture and in all life. But men, when they 
reformed the church and taught you that love was not a sacra- 
ment without the seal of clerical approval; when they forced 
your music into modes of equal temperament ; when they substi- 
tuted knowledge for feeling and wisdom in education, 1 when they 
asked you to pinch your shoes and your waists, and persuaded you 
to think this a refinement, and the language of Elizabethan poetry 
coarse ; when at last they taught you to become Imperialists, and 
went away alone to colonise and civilise the rest of the world, 
leaving you in England with nothing particular to do; when, if 
you have the chance to marry at all, it is ten or fifteen years too 
late who can wonder that you are dissatisfied, and claim the 
right to a career of your own "not merely to earn your livelihood, 
but to provide yourself with an object in life?" 2 How many 
women have only discovered an object in life since the energies 
of men have been employed in activities of pure destruction? 
What a confession ! To receive the franchise would be but a small 
compensation for all you have suffered, if it did not happen that 
we have now seen enough of representative government and the 
tyranny of majorities to understand their futility. Let women as 
well as men, turn away their eyes from the delusions of govern- 
ment, and begin to understand direct action, finding enough to 
do in solving the problems of their own lives, without attempting 
to regulate those of other people. No man of real power has 
either time or strength for any other man's work than his own, 
and this should be equally true for women. Aside from all 
questions of mere lust for power or demand for rights, untold 
evils have resulted from the conviction that it is our God-given 
duty to regulate other people's lives the effects of the current 
theories of 'uplift/ and of the 'white man's burden' are only single 
examples of this; and even if the intentions are good, we need 
not overlook the fact that the way to hell is often paved with good 

Meanwhile there lies an essential weakness in the propaganda 
of emancipation, inasmuch as the argument is based on an unques- 
tioning acceptance of male values. The so-called feminist is as 
much enslaved by masculine ideals as the so-called Indian nation- 

1 Cf. The Great State, p. 127. 

2 From an advertisement in the Englishwoman's Year Book, 1911. 



alist is enslaved by European ideals. Like industrial man, the 
modern woman values industry more than leisure, she seeks in 
every way to externalise her life, to achieve success in men's 
professions, she feigns to be ashamed of her sexual nature, she 
claims to be as reasonable, as learned, as expert as any man, and 
her best men friends make the same claims on her behalf. But 
just in proportion as she lacks a genuine feminine idealism, inas- 
much as she wishes to be something other than herself, she lacks 

The claim of women to share the loaves and fishes with indus- 
trial man may be as just as those of Indian politicians. But the 
argument that women can do what men can do ("we take all 
labour for our province/' says Olive Schreiner) like the argu- 
ment that Indians can be prepared to govern themselves by a 
course of studies in democracy, implies a profound self-distrust. 
The claim to equality with men, or with Englishmen what an 
honour ! That men, or Englishmen, as the case may be, should 
grant the claim what a condescension ! 

If there is one profound intuition of the non-industrial con- 
sciousness, it is that the qualities of men and women are incom- 
mensurable. "The sexes are differently entertained," says Nova- 
lis, "man demands the sensational in intellectual form, woman 
the intellectual in sensational form. What is secondary to the 
man is paramount to the woman. Do they not resemble the 
Infinite, since it is impossible to square (quadriren) them, and 
they can only be approached through approximation?" Is not 
the Hindu point of view possibly right ; not that men and woman 
should approach an identity of temperament and function, but 
that for the greatest abundance of life, there is requisite the 
greatest possible sexual differentiation? 

What is it that great men poets and creators, not men of 
analysis demand of women? It is, surely, the requirements of 
the prolific, rather than of the devourers, which are of most 
significance for the human race, which advances under the guid- 
ance of leaders, and not by accident. The one thing they have 
demanded of women is Life. 

To one thing at least the greatest men have been always indif- 
ferent, that is, the amount of knowledge a woman may possess. 
It was not by her learning that Beatrice inspired Dante, or the 
washerwoman Chandidas. When Cuchullain chose a wife, it was 


.Erner, because she had the six gifts of beauty, voice, sweet 
speech, needlework, wisdom and charity. We know only of 
Helen that "strangely like she was to some immortal spirit ;" in 
other words, she was radiant. Radha's shining made the ground 
she stood on bright as gold. The old English poet wrote of one 
like her 

Her luve lumes liht 
As a launterne a nyht. 

It is this radiance in women, more than any other quality, that 
urges men to every sort of heroism, be it martial or poetic. 

Everyone understands the heroism of war ; we are not surprised 
at Lady Hamilton's adoration of Nelson. But the activity of 
war is atavistic, and highly civilised people such as the Chinese 
regard it with open contempt. What nevertheless we do not yet 
understand is the heroism of art, that exhausting and perpetual 
demand which all creative labour makes alike on body and soul. 
The artist must fight a continual battle for mastery of himself 
and his environment; his work must usually be achieved in the 
teeth of violent, ignorant and often well-organised opposition, 
or against still more wearing apathy, and in any case, even at the 

( test, against the intense resistance which matter opposes to the 
moulding force of ideas, the tamasic quality in things. The 
ardent love of women is not too great a reward for those who 
are faithful. But it is far more than the reward of action, it is 
the energy without which action may be impossible. As pure 
male, the Great God is inert, and his 'power' is always feminine, 
and it is she who leads the hosts of heaven against the demons. 
When man of necessity spent his life in war or in hunting, 
when women needed a personal physical as well as a spiritual 
protection, then she could not do enough for him in personal 
service; we have seen in the record of folk-song and epic how 
it is part of woman's innermost nature to worship man. In the 
words of another Indian scripture, her husband is for her a 
place of pilgrimage, the giving of alms, the performance of vows, 
and he is her spiritual teacher this according to the same school 

, which makes the initiation of son by mother eight times more 
efficacious than any other. What we have not yet learnt is that 
like relations are needed for the finest quality of life, even under 
conditions of perpetual peace; the tenderness of women is as 


necessary to man now, as ever it was when his first duty was that 
of physical warfare, and few men can achieve greatness, and then 
scarcely without the danger of a one-sided development, whose 
environment lacks this atmosphere of tenderness. Woman pos- 
sesses the power of perpetually creating in man the qualities she 
desires, and this is for her an infinitely greater power than the 
possession of those special qualities could ever confer upon her 

Far be it from us, however, to suggest the forcing of any 
preconceived development upon the modern individualist. We 
shall accomplish nothing by pressing anything in moulds. What I 
have tried to explain is that notwithstanding that the formula of 
woman's status in Oriental society may have ere now crystallised 
as the formulae of classic art have become academic neverthe- 
less this formula represented once, and still essentially represents, 
although 'unfelt' in realisation, a veritable expression of woman's 
own nature. If not so, then the formula stands self -condemned. 
I do not know if through our modern idealistic individualism it 
may be possible to renounce all forms and formulae for ever I 
fear that it is only in heaven that there shall be neither marrying 
nor giving in marriage but were that the case, and every creature 
free to find itself, and to behave according to its own nature, then 
it is possible, at least, that the 'natural' relation of woman to 
man would after all involve the same conditions of magic that are 
implied in the soon-to-be-discarded conventional and calculated 
forms of mediaeval art and Oriental society. If not, we must 
accept things as they really are however they may be. 

Meanwhile, it would be worth while to pause before we make 
haste to emancipate, that is to say, reform and industrialise the 
Oriental woman. For it is not for Asia alone that she preserves j 
a great tradition, in an age that is otherwise preoccupied. If she j 
too should be persuaded to expend her power upon externals, 
there might come a time on earth when it could not be believed 
that such women had ever lived, as the ancient poets describe ; it j 
would be forgotten that woman had ever been unselfish, sensuous ( 
and shy. Deirdre, Brynhild, Alcestis, Sita, Radha, would then 
be empty names. And that would be a loss, for already it has 
been felt in Western schools that we "are not furnished with 
adequate womanly ideals in history and literature." 1 

i Stanley Hall. Youth, ed. 1909, p. 286. 


The industrial revolution in India is of external and very recent 
origin ; there is no lack of men, and it is the sacred duty of par- 
ents to arrange a marriage for every daughter : there is no diverg- 
ence of what is spiritual and what is sensuous: Indian women 
do not deform their bodies in the interests of fashion: they arc 
more concerned about service than rights: they consider barren- 
ness the greatest possible misfortune, after widowhood. In 
a word, it has never happened in India that women have been 
judged by or have accepted purely male standards. What pos- 
sible service then, except in a few externals, can the Western 
world render to Eastern women? Though it may be able to 
teach us much of the means of life, it has everything yet to relearn 
about life itself. And what we still remember there, we would 
not forget before we must. 


Sahaja, sahaja, everyone speaks of sahaja, 
But who knows what sahaja means? 


The last achievement of all thought is a recognition of the 
identity of spirit and matter, subject and object; and this reunion 
is the marriage of Heaven and Hell, the reaching out of a con- 
tracted universe towards its freedom, in response to the love of 
Eternity for the productions of time. There is then no sacred 
or profane, spiritual or sensual, but everything that lives is pure 
and void. This very world of birth and death is also the great 

In India we could not escape the conviction that sexual love 
has a deep and spiritual significance. There is nothing with 
which we can better compare the 'mystic union' of the finite with 
its infinite ambient that one experience which proves itself and 
is the only ground of faith than the self-oblivion of earthly 
lovers locked in each other's arms, where 'each is both/ Physical 
proximity, contact, and interpenetration are the expressions of 
love, only because love is the recognition of identity. These two 
are one flesh, because they have remembered their unity of 
spirit. This is moreover a fuller identity than the mere sympathy 
of two individuals; and each as individual has now no more 
significance for the other than the gates of heaven for one who 
stands within. It is like an algebraic equation where the equation 
is the only truth, and the terms may stand for anything. The 
least intrusion of the ego, however, involves a return to the illu- 
sion of duality. 

This vision of the beloved has no necessary relation to empir- 
ical reality. The beloved may be in every ethical sense of the 
word unworthy and the consequences of this may be socially or 
ethically disastrous: but nevertheless the eye of love perceives 
her divine perfection and infinity, and is not deceived. That one 
is chosen by the other is therefore no occasion of pride: for the 
same perfection and infinity are present in every grain of sand, 
and in the raindrop as much as in the sea. 

To carry through such a relationship, however, and to reach a 
goal, to really progress and not merely to achieve an intimation 


for this it is necessary that both the lover and the beloved should 

be of one and the same spiritual age and of the same moral fibre. 

For if not, as Chandidas says, the woman who loves an unworthy 

I man will share the fate of a flower that is pierced with thorns, 

she will die of a broken heart : and the youth who falls in love 

> with a woman of lower spiritual degree will be tossed to and 

\ fro in great unrest and will give way to despair. 

Because the stages of human love reflect the stations of spiritual 
evolution, it is said that the relationship of hero and heroine re- 
veals an esoteric meaning, and this truth has been made the basis 
of the well known allegories of Radha and Krishna, which are 
the dominant motif of mediaeval Hinduism. Here, illicit love 
becomes the very type of salvation: for in India, where social 
convention is so strict, such a love involves a surrender of all 
that the world values, and sometimes of life itself. When Krishna 
receives the milkmaids, and tells them he owes them a debt that 
can never be paid, it is because they have come to him "like the 
vairagl who has renounced his home" neither their duties nor 
their great possessions hindered them from taking the way of 
Mary. The great seducer makes them his own. 

All this is an allegory the reflection of reality in the mirror of 
illusion. This reality is the inner life, where Krishna is the 
Lord, the milkmaids are the souls of men, and Brindaban the 
field of consciousness. The relation of the milkmaids with the 
Divine Herdsman is not in any sense a model intended to be 
realised in human relationships, and the literature contains explicit 
warnings against any such confusion of planes. 

The interpretation of this mystery, however, is so well known 
as to need no elaboration. But there is a related cult, which is 
called Sahaja, 1 which constitutes a practical discipline, a 'rule/ 
and what we have to speak of here concerns this more difficult 
and less familiar teaching. 

In sahaja, the adoration of young and beautiful girls was made 
the path of spiritual evolution and ultimate emancipation. By 
this adoration we must understand not merely ritual worship 
(the Kumari Puja), but also 'romantic love/ 

This doctrine seems to have originated with the later Tantrik 
Buddhists. Kanu Bhatta already in the tenth century wrote 
Sahaja love songs in Bengal. The classic exponent, however, is 

1 Root meaning, cognate, or innate, and hence, "spontaneous." 



Where each is both." Rock-cut sculpture. Brahmanical. Elura. 
8th century. 


Chandidas, who lived in the fourteenth century. Many other 
poets wrote in the same sense. Chandidas himself was called a 
madman a term in Bengali which signifies a man of eccentric 
ideas who nevertheless endears himself to everyone. He was 
Brahman and a priest of the temple of Vasuli Devi near Bolpur. 
One day he was walking on the river bank where women were 
washing clothes. By some chance there was a young girl whose 
name was Rami : she raised her eyes to his. There was a meet- 
ing of Dante and Beatrice. From this time on Chandidas was 
filled with love. Rami was very beautiful : but in Hindu society 
what can a washerwoman be to a Brahman? She could only 
take the dust of his feet. He, however, openly avowed his love 
in his songs, and neglected his priestly duties. He would fall into 
a dream whenever he was reminded of her. 

The love songs of Chandidas were more like hymns of devo- 
tion: "I have taken refuge at your feet, my beloved. When I 
do not see you my mind has no rest. You are to me as a parent 
to a helpless child. You are the goddess herself the garland 
about my neck my very universe. All is darkness without you, 
you are the meaning of my prayers. I cannot forget your grace 
and your charm and yet there is no desire in my heart." 

Chandidas was excommunicated, for he had affronted the 
whole orthodox community. By the good offices of his brother 
he was once on the point of being taken back into society, on 
condition of renouncing Rami forever, but when she was told 
of this she went and stood before him at the place of the reunion 
never before had she looked upon his face so publicly then he 
forgot every promise of reformation, and bowed before her with 
joined hands as a priest approaches his household goddess. 

It is said that a divine vision was vouchsafed to certain of the 
Brahmans there present for Rami was so transfigured that she 
seemed to be the Mother of the Universe herself, the Goddess: 
that is to say that for them, as for Chandidas himself, the doors 
of perception were cleansed, and they too saw her divine per- 
fection. But the rest of them saw only the washerwoman, and 
Chandidas remained an outcast. 

He has explained in his songs what he means by Sahaja. The 
lovers must refuse each other nothing, yet never fall. Inwardly, 
he says of the woman, she will sacrifice all for love, but out- 
wardly she will appear indifferent. This secret love must find 


expression in secret : but she must not yield to desire. She must 
cast herself freely into the sea of contempt, and yet she must 
never actually drink of forbidden waters : she must not be shaken 
by pleasure or pain. Of the man he says that to be a true lover 
he must be able to make a frog dance in the mouth of a snake, 
or to bind an elephant with a spider's web. That is to say, that 
although he plays with the most dangerous passions, he must not 
be carried away. In this restraint, or rather, in the temper that 
makes it possible, lies his salvation. "Hear me," says Chandidas, 
"to attain salvation through the love of woman, make your body 
like a dry stick for He that pervades the universe seen of none, 
can only be found by one who knows the secret of love." It is 
not surprising if he adds that one such is hardly to be found in 
a million. 

This doctrine of romantic love is by no means unique : we meet 
with it also at the summit levels of European culture, in the thir- 
teenth century. "And so far as love is concerned/' says a modern 
Russian (Kuprin), "I tell you that even this has its peaks 
which only one out of millions is able to climb." 

Before attempting to understand the practise of Sahaja we must 
define the significance of the desired salvation the spiritual free- 
dom (moksha) which is called the ultimate purpose, the only true 
meaning of life, and by hypothesis the highest good and per- 
fection of our nature. It is a release from the ego and from 
becoming : it is the realisation of self and of entity when 'noth- 
ing of ourself is left in us/ This perfect state must be one with- 
out desire, because desire implies a lack: whatever action the 
jlvan mukta or spiritual freeman performs must therefore be of 
the nature of manifestation, and will be without purpose or inten- 
tion. Nothing that he does will be praiseworthy or blameworthy, 
and he will not think in any such terms, as the Mahabhdrata 
says, with many like texts, 'He who considers himself a doer of 
good and evil knows not the truth, I trow/ Nothing that the 
freeman does will be 'selfish/ for he has lost the illusion of the 
ego. His entire being will be in all he does, and it is this which 
makes the virtue of his action. This is the innocense of desires. 

Then and then only is the lover free when he is free from 
willing. He who is free is free to do what he will but first, 
as Nietzsche says, he must be such as can will, or as Rumi ex- 
presses it, must have surrendered will. This is by no means the 


same as to do what one likes, or avoid what one does not like, 
for he is very far from free who is subject to the caprices or 
desires of the ego. Of course, if the doors of perception were 
cleansed we should know that we are always free ('It is nought 
indeed but thine own hearing and willing that do hinder thee, 
so that thou dost not hear and see God') for the world itself 
is manifestation and not the handiwork of the Absolute. The 
most perfect love seeks nothing for itself, requiring nothing, and 
offers nothing to the beloved, realizing her infinite perfection 
which cannot be added to: but we do not know this except in 
moments of perfect experience. 

Very surely the love of woman is not the only way to approach 
this freedom. It is more likely by far the most dangerous way, 
and perhaps for many an impossible way. We do not however 
write to condemn or to advocate, but to explain. 

In reading of romantic love we are apt to ponder over what 
is left unsaid. What did the writers really mean? What was 
the actual physical relation of the Provencal lover to his mistress, 
of Chandidas to Rami? I have come to see now that even if we 
knew this to the last detail it would tell us nothing. He who 
looks upon a woman with desire (be it even his wife) has already 
committed adultery with her in his heart, for all desire is adultery. 
We remember that saying, but do not always remember that the 
converse is also true that he who embraces a woman without 
desire has added nothing to the sum of his mortality. Action is 
then inaction. It is not by non-participation but by non-attach- 
ment that we live the spiritual life. So that he in Sahaja who 
merely represses desire, fails. It is easy not to walk, but we have 
to walk without touching the ground. To refuse the beauty of 
the earth which is our birthright from fear that we may sink 
to the level of pleasure seekers that inaction would be action, 
and bind us to the very flesh we seek to evade. The virtue of 
the action of those who are free beings lies in the complete co- 
ordination of their being body, soul and spirit, the inner and 
outer man, at one. 

The mere action, then, reveals nothing. As do the slaves of 
passion impelled by purpose and poverty, so do the spiritually 
free, out of the abundance of the bestowing virtue. Only the 
searcher of hearts can sift the tares from the wheat; it is not for 
mortal man to judge of another's state of grace. 


When we say that the Indian culture is spiritual, we do not 
mean that it is not sensuous. It is perhaps more sensuous than 
has ever been realised because a sensuousness such as this, 
which can classify three hundred and sixty kinds of the fine 
emotions of a lover's heart, and pause to count the patterns gentle 
teeth may leave on the tender skin of the beloved, or to decor- 
ate her breasts with painted flowers of sandal paste and carries 
perfect sweetness through the most erotic art is inconceivable 
to those who are merely sensual or by a superhuman effort are 
merely self -controlled. The Indian temperament makes it pos- 
sible to speak of abstract things meme entre les baisers. 

For this to be possible demands a profound culture of the 
sexual relationship something altogether different from the "in- 
nocence" of Western girlhood and the brutal violence of the "first 
night" and the married orgy. The mere understanding of what 
is meant by Sahaja demands at least a racial if not an individual 
education in love an education related to athletics and dancing, 
music and hygiene. The sexual relation in itself must not be so 
rare or so exciting as to intoxicate : one should enjoy a woman 
as one enjoys any other living thing, any forest, flower or moun- 
tain that reveals itself to those who are patient. One should not 
be forced to the act of love by a merely physical tension : minutes 
suffice for that, but hours are needed for the perfect ritual. 
What the lover seeks should be the full response, and not his 
mere pleasure : and by this I do not mean anything so sentimental 
as "forbearance" or "self-sacrifice," but what will please him 
most. Under these conditions violence has no attractions: in 
Arabia, Burton tells us, the Musulmans respected even their 
slaves, and it was "pundonor," a point of culture, that a slave, 
like any other woman, must be wooed. (There has been no actual 
slavery in India, or very little). 

Lafcadio Hearn has pointed out the enormous degree to which 
modern European literature is permeated with the idea of love. 
This is however as nothing compared with what we find in the 
Vaishnava literature of Hindustan. There, however, there is al- 
ways interpretation: in European romantic literature there is 
rarely anything better than description. That should be only a 
passing phase, for the real tendency of Western sexual freedom 
is certainly idealistic, and its forms are destined to be developed 
until the spiritual significance of love is made clear. 


Under the sway of modern hedonism, where nothing is accepted 
as an end, and everything is a means to something else, the pre- 
conditions for understanding Sahaja scarcely exist. Sahaja has 
nothing to do with the cult of pleasure. It is a doctrine of the 
Tao, and a path of non-pursuit. All that is best for us comes of 
itself into our hands but if we strive to overtake it, it perpetu- 
ally eludes us. 

In the passionless spontaneous relation of Sahaja, are we to sup- 
pose that children are ever to be begotten? I think not. It is 
true that in early times it was considered right for the hermit 
who has renounced the world and the flesh to grant the request 
of a woman who comes to him of her own will and desires a 
child. But this is quite another matter and incidentally a wise 
eugenic disposition, removing an objection to monasticism which 
some have found in its sterilisation of the best blood. The Sahaja 
relation, on the contrary, is an end in itself, and cannot be associ- 
ated with social and eugenic ideas. Those who are capable of 
such love must certainly stand on the plane of the 'men of old/ 
who did not long for descendants, and said 'Why should we 
long for descendants, we whose self is the universe? For 
longing for children is longing for possessions, and longing 
for possessions is longing for the world : one like the' other is 
merely longing.' 1 We cannot admit such a longing in Sahaja. 
It is however just possible that such a relation as this might be 
employed by the Powers for the birth of an avatar : and in such 
a case we should understand what was meant by immaculate 
conception and virgin birth she being virgin who has never 
been moved by desire. 

The Sahaja relation is incommensurable with marriage, cate- 
gorically regarded as contract, inasmuch as this relation is under- 
taken for an end, the definite purpose of 'fulfilling social and 
religious duties/ and in particular, of paying the 'debt to the 
ancestors' by begetting children. 

Those whose view of life is exclusively ethical will hold that 
sexual intimacy must be sanctified, justified or expiated by at 
least the wish to beget and to accept the consequent responsibili- 
ties of partenthood. There is, indeed, something inappropriate 
in the position of those who pursue the pleasures of life and 

1 Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. 


evade by artificial means their natural fruit. But this point 
of view presupposes that the sexual intimacy was a sought pleas- 
ure: what we have discussed is something quite other than this, 
and without an element of seeking. 

It is only by pursuing what is not already ours by divine right 
that we go astray and bring upon ourselves and upon others infi- 
nite suffering to those who do not pursue, all things will offer 
themselves. What we truly need, we need not strive for. 

It will be seen from all this how necessary it is that sexual in- 
timacy should not in itself be considered an unduly exciting ex- 
perience. It is more than likely also that those who are capable 
of this spontaneous control will have been already accustomed 
to willed control under other circumstances: and a control of 
this kind implies a certain training. We may remark in passing 
that in 'birth control* we see an objection to the use of artificial 
means an objection additional to what is obvious on aesthetic 
grounds in the fact that such means remove all incentive to the 
practice of self-control. Those who have good reason to avoid 
procreation at any time, should make it a point of pride to ac- 
complish this by their own strength and in any case, no man 
who has not this strength can be sure of his ability to play his 
part to perfection, but may at any time meet with a woman whom 
he cannot satisfy. 

How is one to avoid in such a relation as Sahaja the danger 
of self-deception, 1 the pestilence of suppressed desires, and even 
of physical overstrain and tension? 

For very highly perfected beings it may be true that those 
subtle exchanges of nervous energy which are effected in sexual 
intercourse and are necessary to full vitality can be effected 
by mere intimacy, in a relation scarcely passionate in the com- 
mon sense. We read, indeed, of other worlds where even gen- 
eration may be effected by an exchange of glances. But it is 
given to few to function always on such a plane as this. Are we 
then to forbid to those who need the consolations of mortal af- 
fection are we to forbid to these the passionless intimacy of 
Sahaja? Why should we do so? Even for those who cannot 
renounce the sheltered valleys of the personal life for ever, it 
is well sometimes to breathe the cold air of the perpetual snows. 

1 'How nicely can doggish lust beg for a piece of spirit, when flesh is 
denied it !" Nietzsche. 


We should add that 'to whom chastity is difficult, it is to be dis- 
suaded': in order to be sure of our ground we should not at- 
tempt the practise of a degree of continence beyond our power. 
We should also be careful not to 'mix our planes' or to make 
one thing an excuse for another. We must recognize everything 
for what it really is the relative as relative, the absolute as abso- 
lute and render unto Caesar those things, and only those, which 
are lawfully his. 

We are now, perhaps, in a better position to know what is 
meant by Chandidas when he speaks of the difficulties and the 
meaning of Sahaja. What he intends by 'never falling* (satl) 
is a perpetual uncalculated life in the present, and the mainte- 
nance, not of deliberate control, but of unsought, unshaken seren- 
ity in moments of greatest intimacy: he means that under cir- 
cumstances of temptation none should be felt not that tempta- 
tion should be merely overcome. And to achieve this he does 
not pray to be delivered from temptation, but courts it. 

Here nothing is to be done for one another, but all for love. 
There is to be no effort to evoke response, and none to withhold 
it. All this is far removed from the passion and surrender, the 
tricks of seduction, and the shyness, of the spiritual allegory and 
of the purely human experience. 


"To mark by some celebration the intellectual fraternity of 


Alike to those who grieve for Europe in her hour of civil war, 
and to those who would offer tribute at the shrine of William 
Shakespeare, it must appear appropriate and significant to pub- 
lish tokens of the brotherhood of man in art. For it is likely the 
prestige of Empire may be completely shattered in the present 
conflict of rival imperialisms : it may appear henceforth a matter 
for shame to exercise political domination over men of another 
race: and where until lately it has been the custom to proclaim 
the conqueror's civilizing purposes, a common civilization of the 
world will demand of us a mutual understanding carried at least 
so far that we may substitute for the endeavour to do one another 
good, an effort based on common needs and human purposes, con- 
ceived in intellectual fraternity. None has been more distin- 
guished than William Shakespeare, in his profound appreciation 
of the common humanity of an infinite variety of man. Civiliza- 
tion must henceforth be human rather than local or national, or 
it cannot exist. In a world of rapid communications it must be 
founded in the common purposes and intuitions of humanity, 
since in the absence of common motives, there cannot be coopera- 
tion for agreed ends. In the decades lately passed in terms of 
'real duration/ now so far behind us it has, indeed, been fash- 
ionable to insist upon a supposed fundamental divergence of 
European and Asiatic character: and those who held this view 
were not entirely illogical in thinking the wide earth not wide 
enough for Europe and Asia to live in side by side. For artificial 
barriers are very frail : and if either white or yellow 'peril' were 
in truth an essentially inhuman force, then whichever party be- 
lieved itself to be the only human element, must have desired the 
extermination, or at least the complete subordination of the other. 

But the premises were false : the divergences of character are 

1 Contributed to the "Book of Homage to Shakespeare," edited by 
Israel Gollancz, London 1916. 


superficial, and the deeper we penetrate, the more we discover 
an identity in the inner life of Europe and Asia. Can we, in 
fact, point to any elemental experience or to any ultimate goal 
of man which is not equally European and Asiatic? Does one 
not see that these are the same for all in all ages and continents. 
Who that has breathed the clear mountain air of Upanishads, of 
Gautama, Sankara and Kablr, of Rumi, of Laotse and Jesus (I 
mention so far Asiatic prophets only) can be alien to those who 
have sat at the feet of Plato and Kant, Tauler, Behmen and 
Ruysbroeck, Whitman, Nietzsche and Blake? The latter may 
well come to be regarded as the supreme prophet of a post- 
industrial age, and it is significant that one could not find in 
Asiatic scripture a more typically Asiatic purpose than is revealed 
in his passionate will to be delivered from the bondage of division : 

"I will go down to self-annihilation and Eternal Death, 
Lest the Last Judgment come and find me unannihilate, 
And I be seized and giv'n into the hands of my own Selfhood." 

But it is not only in Philosophy and Religion Truth and 
Love but also in Art that Europe and Asia are united : and from 
this triple likeness we may well infer that all men are alike in 
their divinity. Let us only notice here the singular agreement of 
Eastern and Western theories of Drama and Poetry, illustrating 
what has been said with special reference to the hero of our cele- 
bration : for the work of Shakespeare is in close accordance with 
Indian canons of Dramatic Art. 

" I made this Drama," says Brahma, " to accord with the movement of 
the world, whether at work or play, in peace or laughter, battle, lust or 
slaughter yielding the fruit of righteousness to those who are followers 
of a moral law, and pleasures to the followers of pleasure informed with 
the divers moods of the soul following the order of the world and all its 
weal and woe. That which is not to be found herein is neither craft nor 
wisdom, nor any art, nor is it Union. That shall be Drama which affords 
a place of entertainment in the world, and a place of audience for the 
Vedas, for philosophy and for the sequence of events." 

And poetry is justified to man inasmuch as it yields the four- 
fold Fruit of Life Virtue, Pleasure, Wealth and Spiritual Free- 
dom. The Western reader may inquire, "How Spiritual Free- 
dom?" and the answer is to be found in the disinterestedness of 
aesthetic contemplation, where the spirit is momentarily freed 


from the entanglement of good and evil. We read in the 
dramatic canon of Dhanamjaya, for example: 

"There is no theme, whether delightful or disgusting, cruel or gra- 
cious, high or low, obscure or plain, of fact or fancy, that may not 
be -successfully employed to communicate aesthetic emotion." 

We may also note the words of Chuang Tzu : 

"The mind of the sage being in repose, becomes the mirror of the 

and compare them with those of Whitman, who avows himself 
not the poet of goodness only, but also the poet of wickedness. 
It is sometimes feared that the detachment of the Asiatic vision 
tends towards inaction. If this be partly true at the present 
moment, it arises from the fullness of the Asiatic experience, 
which still contrasts so markedly with European youth. If the 
everlasting conflict between order and chaos is for the present 
typically European, it is because spiritual wars no less than physi- 
cal must be fought by those who are of military age. But the 
impetuosity of youth cannot completely compensate for the insight 
of age, and we must demand of a coming race that men should 
act with European energy, and think with Asiatic calm the old 
ideal taught by Krishna upon the field of battle : 

"Indifferent to pleasure and pain, to gain and loss, to conquest and 
defeat, thus make ready for the fight. ... As do the foolish, 
attached to works, so should the wise do, but without attachment, 
seeking to establish order in the world." 

Europe, too, in violent reaction from the anarchy of laissez- 
faire, is conscious of a will to the establishment of order in the 
world. But European progress has long remained in doubt, 
because of its lack of orientation. It is significant that the 
discovery of Asia should coincide with the present hour of 
decision: for Asiatic thought again affirms the unity and inter- 
dependence of all life, at the moment when Europe begins to 
realize that the Fruit of Life is not easily attainable in a society 
based upon division. In honouring the genius of Shakespeare, 
then, we do not merely offer homage to the memory of individual, 
but are witnesses to the intellectual fraternity of mankind: and 
it is that fraternity which assures us of the possibility of coopera- 
tion in a common task, the creation of a social order founded on 


Certainly, Nietzsche was not a philosopher in the strict sense 
of the word. He is essentially a poet and sociologist, and above 
all, a mystic. He stands in the direct line of European mysticism, 
and though less profound, speaks with the same voice as Blake 
and Whitman. These three might, indeed, be said to voice the 
religion of modern Europe the religion of Idealistic Individual- 
ism. If it were realised that his originality does not consist in 
an incomprehensible and unnatural novelty, but in a poetic re- 
statement of a very old position, it might be less needful to waste 
our breath in the refutation of theses he never upheld. 

It is true that we find in his work a certain violence and exag- 
geration : but its very nature is that of passionate protest against 
unworthy values, Pharisaic virtue, and snobisme, and the fact that 
this protest was received with so much execration suggests that 
he may be a true prophet. The stone which the builders rejected : 
Blessed are ye when men shall revile you. Of special significance 
is the beautiful doctrine of the Superman so like the Chinese 
concept of the Superior Man, and the Indian Maha Purusha, Bo- 
dhisattva and Jivan-mukta. 

Amongst the chief marks of the mystic are a constant sense of 
the unity and interdependence of all life, and of the interpenetra- 
tion of the spiritual and material opposed to Puritanism, which 
distinguishes the sacred from the secular. So too is the sense of 
being everywhere at home unlike the religions of reward and 
punishment, which speak of a future paradise and hell, and attach 
an absolute and eternal value to good and evil. "All things/' he 
says, "are enlinked, enlaced and enamoured": "I conjure you, 
my brethren, remain true to the earth, and believe not those who 
speak to you of superearthly hopes" : "For me how could there 
be an outside of me? There is no outside": "Every moment 
beginneth existence, around every 'Here' rolleth the ball There/ 
The middle is everywhere" : "Becoming must appear justified at 
every instant . . . the present must not under any circum- 
stances be justified by a future, nor the past be justified for the 


sake of the present." All these are characteristic mystic intui- 
tions, or logical deductions from monism, in close accord with 
' the Brahmanical formula, "That art thou." 

The doctrine of the Superman, whose virtue stands "beyond 
good and evil/' who is at once the flower and the leader and 
saviour of men, has been put forward again and again in the 
world's history. A host of names for this ideal occur in Indian 
literature: he is the Arhat (adept), Buddha (enlightened), Jina 
(conqueror), Tlrthakara (finder of the ford), the Bodhisattva 
(incarnation of the bestowing virtue), and above all Jivan-mukta 
(freed in this life), whose actions are no longer good or bad, but 
proceed from his freed nature. 

Let us see what Nietzsche himself has to say of the Superman. 
"Upward goeth our course onward from genera to super-genera. 
But a horror to me is the degenerating sense, which saith 'All 
for myself ." Is that the doctrine of selfishness? As well accuse 

(the Upanishad, where it declares that all things are dear to us 
for the sake of the Self. For the monist there is no true distinc- 
tion of selfish and unselfish, for all interests are identical. Self- 
realisation is perfect service, and our supreme and only duty .is to 
become what we are (That art thou). This is idealistic individ- 
ualism, and this doctrine of inner harmony is valid on all planes, 1 
for we are not saved by what we do, only by what we are. "Ye 
constrain/' he says, "all things to flow towards you and into you, 
so that they shall flow back again out of your fountain as the 
gifts of your love. Verily, an appropriator of all values must 
such a bestowing love become: but healthy and holy call I this 
selfishness . . . But another selfishness there is, an all-too- 
poor and hungry kind, which would always steal with the eye 
of the thief it looketh upon all that is lustrous : with the craving 
of hunger it measureth him who hath abundance : and ever doth 
it prowl round the table of bestowers." It is the author of a 
supposed apotheosis of the "Blonde Beast," who exclaims: 
"Better to perish than to fear and hate : far better to perish than 
to be feared and hated !" 

Nietzsche has certainly a contempt for pity that is, for senti- 

1 See, for example, Artzibashef 's Sanine, where the one man who 
is at peace with himself, though far from a highly spiritual type, is 

still the most lovable. 


mentalizing over one's own sufferings or those of others. Natu- 
rally, life is hard: for the higher man it should be ever harder 
by choice. "My suffering and my fellow-suffering what matter 
about them !" "Ye tell me 'Life is hard to bear/ But for what j 
purpose should ye have your pride in the morning and your 
resignation in the evening?" This is certainly different from the 
"greatest happiness of the greatest number," which Western 
democracies have made their aim. 

It is hardly worth while to refer to those who bracket our 
poet-philosopher and mystic with the Treitschkes and Crambs, 
and would make him one of the prime instigators of a "Euro- 
Nietzschean" war. It would be easy to show by quotation how 
he scorned alike the mediocrity of Germany and England, and 
how he regarded France as "still the seat of the most intelligent 
and refined culture of Europe," and contrasted the French esprit 
with "our German infirmity of taste." Better than this, however, 
will be to show how well he understood the fundamental unity of 
Europe a unity of suffering now, but then as now a unity of 
movement, by the side of which the present hatreds assume the 
proportions of a mere episode and how little he could ever have 
associated patriotism with greatness : 

"Owing," he says, "to the morbid estrangement which the 
nationality-craze has induced and still induces amongst the nations 
of Europe, owing also to the short-sighted and hasty-handed poli- 
ticians, who with the help of this craze, are at present in power, 
and do not suspect to what extent the disintegrating policy they 
pursue must necessarily be only an interlude policy owing to 
all this, and much more that is altogether unmentionable at pres- 
ent, the most unmistakable signs that Europe wishes to be one, 
are now overlooked, or arbitrarily and falsely misinterpreted. 
With all the more profound and large-minded men of this century, 
the real general tendency of the mysterious labour of their souls 
was to prepare the way for that new synthesis and tentatively to 
anticipate the European of the future; only in their simulations, 
or in their weaker moments, in old age, perhaps, did they belong 
to the 'fatherlands' they only rested from themselves when they 
became 'patriots'." And what may be said to prove the truth of 
this sense of European unity, which even ten years ago might have 
seemed a too brilliant generalization, is the fact that we see now, 
that not only Europe, but the whole world, and in precisely the 


same way, through the mysterious labours of great men, has long 
striven to be one, and is now, perhaps for the first time in history, 
within a measurable distance of realising its unconscious purpose. 

The "Will to Power" has nothing to do with tyranny it is 
opposed alike to the tyranny of the autocrat and the tyranny of 
the majority. The Will to Power asserts that our life is not to 
be swayed by motives of pleasure or pain, the "pairs of opposites," 
but is to be directed towards its goal, and that goal is the free- 
dom and spontaneity of the Jlvan-mukta. And this is beyond 
good and evil. This also set out in the Bhagavad Glta: the hero 
must be superior to pity (asocyananvasocastvam} ; resolute for 
the fray, but unattached to the result, for, as Whitman expresses 
it, "battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won." If he 
be wounded, he will urge his comrades onward, rather than ask 
them to delay to condole with him : and he will not insult them by 
supposing that they in their turn would do otherwise. "Let your 
love be stronger than your pity": but that is not self-love, it is 
not even neighbour-love or patriotism "Higher than love to your 
neighbour is love to the furthest and future ones ; higher still than 
love to men is love to things and phantoms . . 'Myself do I 
offer unto my love, and my neighbour as myself such is the 
language of all creators." "Ah! that ye understood my word," 
he says: "do ever what ye will but first be such as can will 
.... He who cannot command himself shall obey." This 
is infinitely remote from the doctrine of "getting our own way" 
or "doing what we like" "a horror to us," as he says, "is the 
degenerating sense, which saith 'All for myself." 

The teaching of Nietzsche is a pure nishkama dharma: "Do I 
then strive after happiness? I strive after my work!" and "All 
those modes of thinking/' he says, "which measure the worth of 
things according to pleasure and pain, are plausible modes of 
thought and naivetes, which everyone conscious of creative 
powers and an artist's conscience will look down upon with 
scorn." For the Superman, as we should say, is not swayed by 
the pairs of opposites. 'Do what ye will' : this doctrine is neither 
egotistic nor altruistic. Not egotistic, for to yield to all the 
promptings of the senses, to be the slave of caprice, is to be 
moulded by our environment, and the very reverse of far- willing: 
it is precisely himself the Superman may not spare. It is not 
altruistic, for where there is naught external to myself, there 


can be no altruism. The highest duty is that of self-realisation. 
"Physician, heal thyself," exclaims Nietzsche: "then wilt thou 
also heal thy patient. Let it be his best cure to see with his 
eyes him who maketh himself whole." This is nothing but the 
old doctrine of Chuang Tzu: "The sages of old first got Tao 
for themselves, and then got it for others. Before you possess 
this yourself, what leisure have you to attend to the doings of 
wicked men? Cherish and preserve your own self, and all the 
rest will prosper of itself." It reminds us also of Jesus : "First 
cast out the mote from thine own eye." 

The leaders of humanity have never been such as have acted 
from a sense of duty, in the ordinary sense of the word. Duty is 
but a means of playing safe for those who lack the Bestowing 
Virtue. The activity of genius is not an obedience to rules, but 
dedication of life to what is commanded from within, even 
though it should appear to all others as evil. 

Was Jesus humble, or did He 

Give any proofs of humility ? 

When but a child He ran away, 

And left His parents in dismay : 

These were the words upon His tongue 

"I am doing My Father's business." 

What constitutes the virtue of any action is the complete co- 
ordination of the actor. We should act according to our own 
nature : and when that nature has developed to its fullest stature, 
then what is divine attains complete manifestation. It is with 
preoccupations such as this that Nietzsche exclaims with such 
profound conviction: 

"That ye might become weary of saying: 'that an action is 
good because it is unselfish/ Ah ! my friends ! That your very 
self be in your action, as the mother is in the child: let that be 
your formula of virtue." 

This is the very prayer of Socrates, "and may the outward and 
inward man be at one" all else is hypocrisy. The inferior man 
regulates his life by externals : inasmuch as he is constrained by 
desire for long life, reputation, riches, rank or offspring, he is 
not free. The superior man is of another sort, and of him it 


may be said, with Chuang Tzu, "that they live in accordance with 
their own nature. In the whole world they have no equal. They 
regulate their life by inward things." 

"What are not the powerful doing?" says the Prema Sagara 
"Who knows their course of action? They, indeed, do nothing 
for themselves ; but to those that do them honour and seek their 
aid, they grant their prayers. Such is their path, that they appear 
united to all; but upon reflection thou shalt perceive that they 
stand aloof from all, as the lotus leaf from water." "The man 
of perfect virtue" (Superman), says Chuang Tzu again, "in 
repose has no thoughts, in action no anxiety. He recognizes no 
right, nor wrong, nor good, nor bad. Within the Four Seas, when 
all profit that is his pleasure ; when all share that is his repose. 
Men cling to him as children who have lost their mothers; they 
rally round him as wayfarers who have missed their road." For 
his is the Bestowing Virtue. 

According to Asvaghosha, too, "it is said that we attain to Nir- 
vana and that various spontaneous displays of activity are accom- 
plished." The Bodhisattvas do not consider the ethics of their 
behaviour: "they have attained to spontaneity of action, because 
their discipline is in unison with the wisdom and activity of all 
Tathagatas." "Jesus was all virtue, because he acted from im- 
pulse and not from rules." When Nietzsche says that the Super- 
man is the meaning of the earth he means what we mean when 
we speak of a Bodhisattva, or of a Jlvan-mukta. This type which 
represents the highest attainment and purpose of humanity is the 
most difficult thing for self-assertive minds to grasp. A being 
"beyond good and evil," a law unto himself. "How wicked!" 
exclaims the ordinary man : "for even / feel it my duty to con- 
form to the rules of morality and to restrain my selfish desires." 

Thus we shall never comprehend the selfishness which Nietzsche 
and other mystics praise, if we interpret it according to the lights 
of those who believe that all actions should be praiseworthy. 
The pattern of man's behaviour is not to be found in any code, 
but in the principles of the universe, which is continually reveal- 
ing to us its own nature. Consider the lilies . . . 

There exists a voluptuousness that is not sensuality, a passion 
for power that is not self-assertion, and a selfishness that is more 
generous than any altruism. These are distinctions which Nietz- 
sche himself is careful to insist upon, and only wilful misunder- 


standing ignores it. It is precisely of the great man who fails 
that he says : "Once they thought of becoming heroes ; but sen- 
sualists are they now." "Art thou the victorious one (jina)," he 
says, "the self-conqueror, the ruler of thy passions, the master of 
thy virtues? Thus do I ask thee. Or does the animal speak in 
thy wish, and necessity ? or isolation ? or discord in thee ?" "What 
I warn people against . . . confounding debauchery, and the 
principle 'laisser alter* (i. e. 'never mind') with the Will to 
Power the latter is the exact reverse of the former." "And 
verily, it is no commandment for to-day and to-morrow to learn 
to love oneself. Rather is it of all arts the finest, subtlest, last 
and patientest." "True and ideal selfishness consists in always 
watching over and restraining the soul, so that our productiveness 
may come to a beautiful termination." 

So far, then, from a doctrine of self-indulgence, it is a form of 
asceticism or ardor (tapas) which Nietzsche would have us im- 
pose on ourselves, if we are strong enough. This was precisely 
the view of Manu when he established a severe rule of life for 
the Brahman, and one far easier for the Sudra. And understand- 
ing this, Nietzsche has praised the institution of caste, for he 
thought it right that life should grow colder towards the summit. 
As the Markandeya Pur ana pronounces, a Brahman should do 
nothing for the sake of enjoyment. 

Those who have comprehended the decline and fall of Western 
civilization will recognize in Nietzsche the reawakening of the 
conscience of Europe. 


In order to understand Young India, one must understand the 
world. What is the meaning of youth or age in cycles of civili- 
zation, as well as in individuals? In terms of reality, this is not 
a question of dates or years, but of experience. India is at once 
unbelievably old and incredibly young, utterly sophisticated and 
pathetically naive. Her great achievements of the past in philos- 
ophy, art and social organization possess an indestructible value, 
and there can be no true citizenship of the world of which the 
roots do not reach back into this ground, at least as far as they 
reach back into the classic culture of the Mediterranean. There 
is no point at which the speculation, experiment, success or failure 
which constitute Indian civilization do not touch the vital prob- 
lems of the present day. And yet we cannot say that modern 
India has created anything. 

We stand in the West at the close of the great cycle of Christian 
civilization which attained its zenith, let us say, in the twelfth or 
thirteenth century, when the creative will of man swept far beyond 
its personal boundaries, striving to establish an order in the 
outer world to correspond with the universal order of the world 
of imagination or eternity. From the thirteenth to the twentieth 
century one can follow the progressive decay of life the ever 
fainter expression of the creative will, loosening social integra- 
tion, the substitution of contract for status, the advancement of 
material and moral to the exclusion of spiritual values, the decline 
of vision, up to this present hour of pure chaos, when life and 
art are evidence of centuries of aimlessness. 

The war in Europe is no unfortunate accident, but the inevit- 
able outcome of European civilization. How clearly this was 
already apparent towards the close of the nineteenth century is 
to be seen in the remarkable words of Viscount Torio, published 
in 1890: "Occidental civilization . . . must ultimately end in 
disappointment and demoralization. . . . Peaceful equality can 
never be attained until built up among the ruins of annihilated 
Western States and the ashes of extinct Western peoples." And, 
indeed, we cannot be surprised that the philosophy of internecine 


peace should have been transferred at last to the visible field of 

We feel that the intention of this war has been to make the 
world safe for exploitation; this might have been accomplished 
by a decisive victory on either side. And "Victory breeds 
hatred: because the conquered are unhappy/' 1 The best one 
could hope for was that the struggle would go on long enough and 
be sufficiently inconclusive to destroy the prestige of Imperialism 
and exploitation for many centuries. Nevertheless, democracy 
understood politically as the tyranny of a majority is no more 
congenial to liberty than an autocracy, for it implants or assumes 
in every one the desire to govern. But those only are worthy 
to govern, as the Chinese say, who would rather be excused. 
Representative government has everywhere been found to involve 
no more than the victory of the most powerful interests. And 
even revolts have not created liberty 

The Iron hand crushed the tyrant's head 
And became a tyrant in his stead. 

Every oppressed nationality oppresses some other or embraces 
the oppression of class by class. Our sympathies are then not 
only with the oppressed, but with the oppressor, for both alike 
are in need of salvation from the same group of false values. 
The liberty that we concede is of far greater significance to us 
than any liberty we can take by force or receive by gift. 

Perhaps we ought not to include the Russians in these criti- 
cisms. In Russia more clearly than anywhere else, the religion 
of Europe the idealistic individualism of Blake and Whitman 
and Nietzsche has found expression in art and action. It is a 
tragic reflection that those who laid down their arms were not 
wrong, but only too right. Yet we cannot collectively abandon 
the use of force in a day or establish the kingdom of heaven in 
a week : to find the Paradise still upon earth is possible only for 
the individual, never for the race ... If we cannot see our 
way to the end of all government, however, we can see that the 
least amount of government it is possible to live with is the best, 
and the less we are mixed up with it the better for us : or, rather, 

1 Dhammapada. 


the better we are, the less we shall wish to be involved in it. Need- 
less to say, in refusing to govern, we do not refuse to cooperate : 
but to accomplish this, we must serve, not one another, but ends 
beyond ourselves. 

Let us pause now to see what has been going on in India, and 
first to consider the past as it survives side by side with the Young 
India that is the final subject of our argument. Broadly con- 
trasted with the opportunist industrial order of today ("a des- 
perately precarious institutional situation"), 1 where the whole 
energy of man is used up in making sure of mere existence, the 
civilization of India presents to us the spectacle of something 
stable and leisurely: and this not merely by virtue of some kind 
of inertia, but as the result of deliberate organization based on 
a definite view (definite, whether right or wrong) of the mean- 
ing and purpose of life. The principles of government are de- 
fined, not by the interested, but by the disinterested; that is to 
say, by the philosopher who has no personal ends to serve and 
no "stake in the country" ; he is the law-giver, and the status of 
the executive power is inferior. In a stable cooperative society 
the achievement of mere life, the solution of the bare economic 
problem, is taken for granted, and there remains abundant energy 
for the pursuit of the real ends of life. These were defined in 
India in the famous formula of "Human Aim" (purushdrtha) , 
on the one hand temporarily as vocational activity (function, or 
duty), winning wealth and enjoying pleasure; and on the other 
hand eternally as spiritual freedom. Obviously the latter object 
is the main concern of all higher men. 

Here are the criteria of ethical judgment. That is a priori 
right, which tends to the achievement of one or all of these ends 
(all being good in their degree or kind), and that is wrong, which 
involves the attainment of any end not appropriate to the indi- 
vidual concerned, or involves a failure to attain what is appro- 
priate. We speak of right or wrong accordingly as purely rela- 
tive to individuality and circumstance ; and since all men are really 
unlike, it requires but a slight development of the doctrine of 
"own-morality" of the vocational groups, which is the basis of 
organized ethics, to reach the pure individualism which is the 
ultimate religion alike of Asia and modern Europe. The indi- 

1 Veblen, The Instinct of Workmanship. 


vidual who attains this ground of liberty is called in India "jivan- 
mukta," free in this life, since nothing of himself is left in him. 
This is the concept of superman ; but it demands also the entirety 
of man at every stage of development. There can be no doubt 
that this latter end of spiritual freedom to become what we 
are dominated in India all others; so that the connotation of 
success in India has but little in common with its connotation in 

Let us speak of two conspicuous features of the Hindu social 
order. First, the caste system. This system, of which the lines 
are drawn at once ethnically and culturally (not pecuniarily), 
represents an integration (not a division) of society in vocational 
groups internally democratic, and outwardly answerable to other 
groups only for the fulfillment of their 'own function/ It is 
somewhat as if, for example, the farmers of the whole United 
States should be answerable to the community at large only for 
the production of good and sufficient food, in return for the 
means of production guaranteed to them, while as a group they 
should remain completely autonomous in all other respects, e. g., 
in matters of marriage and divorce, education, wages and hours 
of labor, etc., while none could be called on for any other public 
service than their own. In place of States, then, we should 
have nation-wide, someday perhaps world-wide, vocational groups 
directly founded on the instinct of workmanship and the inheri- 
tance of aptitude. 

It was assumed in India that heredity determined birth in the 
appropriate environment. This may have been true of an ordered 
society like that of ancient India, but it could not apply to the 
', melting pot, and we may expect that the coming development 
of syndicalism will differ chiefly from the caste system in per- 
; mitting intermarriage and choice or change of occupation under 
certain conditions, though still recognizing the general desirability 
of marriage within the group and of following one's parent's 
calling. In such a reinstatement of the instinct of workmanship 
in the West, and a certain relaxation of caste rule in the East, 
it is possible to foresee a common sociological agreement of the 
workers of the world. 

Secondly, marriage. In India the home is still the foundation 
of all social thought ; in Europe and America the home as deter- 
mined by existing tradition is already a lost cause a profound 


distinction, and yet, under the same influences the same result 
is bound to succeed even in India, though the ancient order may 
be long in dying. The Indian marriage is an impersonal con- 
tract, undertaken as a social debt, by men and women alike, not 
for happiness, but for the fulfillment of social and religious 
duties. It is not based on romantic love or passion, and it is 
indissoluble, just because it is undertaken for ends that are real- 
izable apart from individual interest. To be perfect wife or hus- 
band is not so much a question of personal adaptation as of edu- 
cation, since ethical culture is achieved through hero-worship and 
the general knowledge of epic literature. The end is a perfect 
harmony based on self-forgetfulness an order exquisite in form, 
and possibly superior to the romantic concept of the harmony of 
selves which underlies the modern theory of marriage or liaison 
based on love, but incongruous with our necessity to prove for 
ourselves the spiritual and dynamic value of passion. 

One further observation on the past: it was from beginning 
to end an era of proficiency in handicraft, rather than of ingeni- 
ous mechanism. The industrial arts attained an unsurpassed 
perfection with great economy of means. Sculpture had already 
declined, but painting and architecture were still at a very high 
level at the end of the eighteenth century. Music, poetry and 
dancing survive today, however, precariously. 

In the nineteenth century we have to remark two special 
conditions beside the survival of the past in the present. First, 
that the Indian culture was already decadent, that is to say, suf- 
fering from the inevitable consequences of all formulation. The 
formula, however admirable, is inherited rather than earned, it 
becomes an end instead of a means, and its meaning is forgotten, 
so that it is insecure. Secondly, political subjection coincided 
with the impact of the industrial revolution and of the dead 
weight of empirical science apprehended simply as the basis of 
economic success. All this implied a transvaluation of all values, 
in an arbitrary rather than a constructive sense in the main a 
degradation of values and a diversion of energy compressing into 
half a century a process that has occupied five hundred years in 

Let us emphasize again that the war is merely the evidence 
and not the cause of European chaos: there is immediate hope 
for Europe since he that is down need fear no fall. Western 


civilization stands at the beginning of a new movement, and is 
not without renewed religious motivation. But India affords the 
most tragic spectacle of the world, since we see there a living and 
magnificent organization, akin to, but infinitely more complete 
than that of mediaeval Europe, still in the process of destruction. 
Inheriting incalculable treasure, she is still incalculably poor, 
and most of all in the naivete with which she boasts of the pov- 
erty that she regards as progress. One questions sometimes 
whether it would not be wiser to accelerate the process of destruc- 
tion than to attempt to preserve the broken fragments of the 
great tradition. 

It is hard to realize how completely the continuity of Indian 
j life has been severed. A single generation of English education 
suffices to break the threads of tradition and to create a nonde- 
script and superficial being deprived of all roots a sort of intel- 
lectual pariah who does not belong to the East or the West, the 
, past or the future. The greatest danger for India is the loss of 
/ her spiritual integrity. Of all Indian problems the educational 
is the most difficult and most tragic. As things now stand it is 
dominated by political considerations in the sense that loyalty 
is more essential than personality in a teacher even university 
professors are subject to espionage and their activity to censor- 
ship: it is dominated by economic considerations, too, for the 
present system is really a vested interest in the hands of Mac- 
millans and Longmans and the younger graduates of English 
universities, while the power of the missionary school is derived 
from the contributions of those who are interested much more in 
proselytizing than in education. In all government and mission- 
ary institutions there is the widest possible divergence between 
the ideals of the school and the ideals of the home : the teachers 
do not in one case in a hundred effect any real contact with their 
pupils, whatever they may believe to the contrary. 

Modern pedagogic theory teaches us that the aim of education 
should be not so much the levelling up of faculties and the pro- 
duction of uniform types as the intensive cultivation of the facul- 
ties we have. Ruskin was never more right than when he said 
that education means finding out what people have tried to do, 
and helping them to do it better. There has been no "finding out" 
in India, but only a complete inversion of values. And what does 
this imply? From the home to the world, from the freedom of 


the spirit it was the aim of every great Hindu to attain, from the 
great example of Bhishma and Rama, from the pursuit and 
acquisition of Yoga, from the celestial songs of Radha and 
Krishna, from the knowledge which is in unity to the knowledge 
of manifold things, this was a descent from the Himalayas to 
the plains. 1 It is true that this was inevitable. The English, in 
spite of Macaulay and Cramb, are not entirely to blame for it. 
A renunciation of what appears to be obsolete is justified; polit- 
ical and economic problems cannot be ignored; man and man's 
world are still to be explored: but with all that there has been 
too little love, too much of snobism, too indiscriminate a taste, and 
too little distaste, and now only the greatest souls by a supreme 
effort can achieve a synthesis of the past and the future. 

In the midst of all these conditions we have seen the rise of 
Indian Nationalism, the growth of Young India. Fundamentally 
this has been a political movement covering a wide range of pur- 
poses, from those of the Moderates who desire to see a gradual 
progress towards colonial self-government, to those of the Ex- 
tremists who would like to see the last Englishmen driven out of 
India at the earliest opportunity. 

There is no question but that India has had and still has many 
just grievances, some inseparable from any foreign domination 
and some peculiar to the present situation. For example, Indians 
are excluded to a very large extent from the higher paid posts 
of the civil and educational service: while India is freely open 
to British economic explanation, Indian settlers are arbitrarily 
excluded from other parts of the Empire. The system of police 
espionage and the searching of private houses, the censorship of 
private correspondence, the law against the possession of arms, 
the not infrequent imprisonment and even deportation of influ- 
ential men without charge or trial, and particular measures such 
as the partition of Bengal are constant provocatives of a very 
natural resentment. The color prejudice is such that educated 
Indians are often insulted by Englishmen in railway trains and 
to all intents and purposes are excluded from English society. 
Many of these grievances depend immediately on the fact that 
India is never regarded by the Englishman as his home: a con- 
quest resulting in the establishment of an English dynasty related 

1 Dinesh Chandra Sen. History of Bengali Language and Literature. 


by marriage to the Indian aristocracy (however the latter might 
have resented it), and identified with Indian interests, would 
have involved far more vital integrations than now exist. This 
was what happened in the case of the Mughals. As it is, the 
sympathy between rulers and ruled and the common understand- 
ing are admittedly less than was the case fifty years ago. 

A large part of the Indian unrest is, of course, economic, and 
due to the disturbance of settled conditions by industrial compe- 
tition, and the impact of the era of technology upon an era of 
handicraft. Conditions of this kind are not so much traceable 
to foreign domination as to world-wide economic disorder. As 
for the war, it can only be said to concern the Indians indirectly, 
or rather, they are directly concerned only because of the political 
association with Britain. It is interesting to note that two particu- 
lar grievances have been remedied since the outbreak of the war : 
the excise duty on cotton has been removed, and very recently, 
Indians have been allowed to qualify as commissioned officers. 
It is certain that far-reaching changes in the direction of self- 
government will be made immediately after the war, and this 
must result equally from the actual situation and from the prin- 
ciples of freedom to which the Allies have declared their alle- 
giance. It is, however, with a certain distaste that one is com- 
pelled to enumerate these various grievances and to refer to the 
inevitable resentments they must evoke: for Indian national 
idealism has a wider significance than the redress of grievances. 

Moderate nationalism has found expression not only in polit- 
ical, but also in economic, social and educational activities. Eco- 
nomically in the Swadeshi ('own-country*) movement, which, 
despite the heroic idealism of communities and individuals, in the 
main represents a rather pathetic endeavour to 'get back' at 
European trade, without much reference to the quality or desir- 
ability of particular industries or the conditions of manufacture. 
Indian economists are still or have remained until very recently 
in the early Victorian stage, enthusiastic believers in factory pro- 
duction and laissez-faire. Even in Western universities the 
student is rarely brought in touch with current thought, and this 
is still more true of universities in India. The Indian student has 
i little opportunity to realise that the accepted forms of European 
^thought are necessarily far behind its real development. Western 
'society is in process of such rapid change that it must be regarded 



as tragic or ridiculous that the prestige of power should have 
provoked imitation : and this at the best implies provincialism, for 
sociological, like sartorial fashions, travel round the world at 
second hand long after they have been forgotten at their source. 
Creation or death. 

Social endeavor has been in the nature of what is here known 
as "uplift," and has been especially directed to the elevation of 
the depressed classes, the reduction of caste institutionalism, and 
the "emancipation" of women. A recrudescence of puritanism, 
like a return to the early Buddhist fear of the world, but really 
of Christian missionary and bourgeois origin, and no better rea- 
soned than similar movements in modern America, leads to the 
condemnation of exquisite national costumes as "indecent" and 
to absurd apologies for classic literature and art : and the dancer 
has been driven from the temple to the streets. We must 
class here also as Moderate activities such movements as are 
represented by the Bengal National College, the Fergusson Col- 
lege, Poona, the diffusion of popular education in Baroda, and 
part of the work of the Arya Samaj, and the Servants of India. 
The effects are meritorious rather than inspiring. Sometimes the 
genuine English educationalist, seeking to restore the Indian 
classics or vernaculars to their real place in Indian curricula, is 
met by the determined opposition of the Nationalists: and it is 
not without reason that Professor Patrick Geddes, who, I am 
glad to say, has been entrusted with the organization of the Hindu 
University at Benares 1 has remarked that it would be a mistake 
to allow the Europeanized Indian graduates to have their way 
with Indian education: "that would be continuing our mistake," 
as he says, "not correcting it." 

There have been somewhat parallel developments in religion, 
typified in the eclecticism of the Brahmo Samaj a sort of 
Unitarianism combining Hindu philosophy with Nonconformist 

The keynote of most of these activities, as of the political pro- 
gramme of the National Congress and the Moderate press, is to 
be recognized in a complete acceptance of European models, and, 
indeed, of European sources of inspiration: they represent the 
just wish of Indians to do for themselves what is now done or 
left undone by others. But this is a somewhat uninspiring and 

1 Since writing this I learn with regret that this is no longer the case. 



A School of Philosophy. Rajput painting, 18th century. Collection of the author. 


insufficient programme, regarded from the standpoint of futurist 
Europeans, who expect from the East, not a repetition of their 
own mistakes, but a positive contribution to the solution of prob- 
lems that face the whole world, and no longer merely a single 
race or continent. 

The beauty and logic of Indian life belong to a dying past : the 
nineteenth century has degraded much and created nothing. If 
any blame for this is to be laid on alien shoulders, it should be 
only in the sense that if it must be that offences come, woe unto 
them through whom they come. It is an ungrateful and unro- 
mantic task to govern a subject race. England could not in any 
case have inspired a new life : the best sTie could have done would 
have been to understand and conserve through patronage and 
education the surviving categories of Indian civilization archi- 
tecture, music, handicrafts, popular and classic literature, and 
schools of philosophy and that she failed here is to have been 
found wanting in imagination and sympathy. It should not have 
been regarded as the highest ideal of Empire "to give to all men 
an English mind." 

If I speak now of the Idealists as distinguished from the 
Moderates, it is because they alone possess a genuine sense of 
the future. Needless to say, it is not the idealist who 19 
"impatient": it is the opportunist who has not the patience to 
pursue a distant end. It should also be emphasized that there 
is never a hard and fast line separating the Idealist from 
the Moderate; these are types that may be combined in a single 
individual, and are almost always represented in any group. 
I also dismiss the questions of disloyalty and sedition as irrele- 
vant for the present discussion: and as I have said elsewhere, 
loyalty is too often sentimentality or interest and disloyalty no 
more than irritation if loyalty were always friendship and dis- 
loyalty detachment one could welcome either. 

The first reaction of the idealist is recognizable in disillusion. 
He begins to see that people are not inspired or made happy by 
government but by themselves he loses faith in politics, and 
turns to direct action, more often than otherwise, educational. 
He is no longer deceived by the prestige of European power 
very often he has lived for many years in Europe or America, 
and has learnt to regard both "progress" and "civilization" with 
distaste and distrust. He begins to see things as they really are 



and regards his Indian life no longer with disparagement, but 
with a new understanding and affection. He begins to see that 
life is an art., and is rather a means than an end. 

The first expression of national idealism is then a rehabilita- 
tion of the past. We have turned from the imitation of European 
formulae to follow the historical development of our own beliefs, 
our architecture, sculpture, music and literature, and of all the 
institutions, social and religious, with which they are inseparably 
intertwined; and to preserve and defend the Prolific against the 
Devourers. This is fundamentally a process of creative intro- 
spection preparatory to renewed activity. 

It does not matter that the realization of what we have lost has 
come too late: this was inevitable. For a moment, perhaps, we 
desired to turn back the hands of the clock, but that was only 
sentimentality, and it was not long before we remembered that 
fresh waters are ever flowing in upon us. We have learnt that we 
are exiled ; but we would not and cannot return. In India, as in 
Europe, the vestiges of ancient civilization must be renounced: 
we are called from the past and must make our home in the future. 
Jut to understand, to endorse with passionate conviction, and to 
love what we have left behind us is the only possible foundation 
for power. If the time has hardly yet come for the creation of 
new values and it cannot long be delayed let us remember 
that time and suffering are essential to all creation. 

We see now springing up all over India societies of literary 
or historical research or sociological experiment, and schools of 
national education. In Bengal, for example, the Sahitya Parishad 
(library, MSS. and research), in the United Provinces the Na- 
gari Pracharim Sabha (Hindu texts and a great dictionary), in 
Poona the Gayan Samaj (study and encouragement of pure 
music), in Madura the Tamil Sangam (modelled after the old 
Tamil literary academies), religious organizations such as the 
Arya Samaj (in part), the Ramakrishna order, the Vivekananda 
societies, and the Theosophical society (in part) : and the Bud- 
dhist revival in Ceylon. There are signs of life even in the uni- 
versities, though the most interesting development in this direc- 
tion is the newly established Hindu University in Benares, which 
gives at least an equal place to indigenous and to foreign learning. 
A time must come and will come when Indian universities will 
be once more places of pilgrimage for foreign students. Beside 


Figure a. One of the gates of Jaipur. 
(Photograph by Mr. Thornton Oakley) 

Figure b. Laying a warp in Madura. 


this there are many individual Indian scholars publishing their 
results in association with European savants, with the Archaeo- 
logical Survey of India or through the various Asiatic societies 
or in separate volumes. Private collections of ancient works of 
art are being made and interest is taken in museums and the 
preservation of ancient monuments. 

The inner meaning of most of these activities is to be found in 
the concept of National Education: a return to the aims of 
Oriental education in general, the development of personality 
rather than the mere acquisition of knowledge, and above all, a 
reunion of those links of understanding which have been so 
roughly broken : and to the end that we may see the last of those 
"educated" Indians who are Indian only in name. Up till now 
the sterility of higher education in India has been far more 
unfortunate than the absence of elementary literary education for 
the masses and for women. The latter have always possessed 
and have not yet lost, what the progressive amongst the men have 
lost, the incalculable advantage of familiarity through oral tradi- 
tion with an epic literature vast in amount and saturated with 
a great philosophy. To some extent, indeed, India may be said 
to be now a land of cultivated peasants and uncultivated leaders 
"Their ordinary Plowmen and Husbandmen," said Knox 
without exaggeration, "do speak elegantly and are full of compli- 
ment. And there is no difference between the ability and speech 
of a Countryman and a Courtier" a fact which affords us a good 
deal of food for reflection. 

Amongst the schools of national education two or three are of 
special importance: Sir Rabindrath Tagore's school at Bolpur, 
the Kalasala at Masulipatam, and the Gurukula of the, Arya 
Samaj at Hardwar. In all these the mother-tongue is made the 
medium of instruction, and English takes a second though still 
very important place : there had been danger of creating an edu- 
cated class unable to express itself perfectly in any language. The 
Gurukula, it has been said very truly, is perhaps the most fas- 
cinating educational experiment in the world. It is for boys of 
all castes, from the highest to the lowest, and no distinctions are 
made. Tuition is free and the teachers are unpaid. The first 
seven years are devoted entirely to Sanskrit, religion and physical 
culture, and the twelve years following to Western literature, 
science and laboratory work: at the age of twenty-five the man 


is ready to go out into the world. During the whole of this time 
the pupils remain in charge of their teacher, without returning 
home, nor are they permitted to meet any women except their 
mothers. There are institutions for the education of girls on 
somewhat similar but less severe lines: since the marriage of 
spiritual equals is taken for granted in the foundations of Hindu 
society. The most conspicuous feature of the system is its return 
to the impersonal and philosophic concepts of culture which have 
always been characteristic of the East, and the combination of 
this ancient wisdom with modern and practical knowledge. 

At the same time the return of idealism has brought with it 
a renewed appreciation of indigenous art and popular mythology, 
and has sought expression in creative activity. These matters 
have been closed books to the politicians and social reformers: 
even now there is perhaps no country in the world so completely 
lacking in cultivated and conscious taste as modern India, for 
as we have said, all that is so beautiful in the life that we see 
by riverside, in temples or homes, and in the streets, is 
merely an inheritance, and those who have been mis-educated 
would gladly exchange it all for the cheapest commercial art of 
Western stores and music halls and for the villa architecture of 
a London suburb. 

There has been a revival of painting in Bengal, inspired by 
Abanindronath Tagore and his brother, nephews of the well 
known poet. But important as this movement has been, its main 
significance belongs to appreciation rather than production. It 
may be compared rather to the work of the pre-Raphaelites than 
to that of the great post-Impressionists the time for these has 
not yet arrived. It has proved impossible for those who have not 
seen the ancient gods to represent them: and the powers to be 
are not yet seen or heard, only the movement of their dance is 
faintly felt. 

But for the great idealists of younger India, nationalism is not 
enough. Patriotism is parochial, and even banal, and there are 
finer parts great souls may play. Certainly not as missionaries or 
propagandists the day has gone by for sectarian groupings and 
for invitations to be "one of us" : but as equally concerned with 
all others in the exploration of the thousand paths that have never 
yet been trodden. It is life, and not merely Indian life that claims 
our loyalty. The pursuit of mere liberty is not enough: it is not 



The Bathing Ghat at Benares. 


his happiness, but his task that concerns the idealist. For those 
who pursue a distant end there is no time to devote to what is 

Freedom is always open to those who are free. And free for 
what ? For the very same ends that are foreseen by the idealists 
of Europe: how could there be a divergence of idealism from 
idealism ? The chosen people of the future cannot be any nation 
or race, but an aristocracy of the earth uniting the virility of 
European youth to the serenity of Asiatic age. Already the 
leaders of thought in every nation understand each other very 
well, and all significant movements are international and world- 
wide as has always been the case to a greater extent than we are 
apt to realize. We only await the declaration of peace to renew 
our comraderie with the other idealists, and meanwhile we will 
not betray our common cause. The flowering of humanity is 
more to us than the victory of any party. The only condition of 
a renewal of life in India, or elsewhere, should be a spiritual, not 
merely an economic and political awakening, and it is on this 
ground alone that it will ever be possible to bridge the gulf which 
has been supposed to divide the East from the West. 

To the idealist all interests are identical because all life is one. 
The only and real significance of Young India for the world will 
be revealed in the great men who are given to the common life: 
one great philosopher, poet, painter, scientist or singer shall be 
accounted in the last judgment more than all the concessions won 
by all the Congresses in a hundred years. 

And so while India is occupied with national education and 
social reconstruction at home, she must also throw in her lot 
with the world: what we need for the creation of a common 
civilization is the recognition of common problems, and to coop- 
erate in their solution. 

Meanwhile it is not sufficient for the Western world to stand 
aside from the development of Asia, with idle curiosity or appre- 
hension wondering what will happen next. There is serious 
danger that the degradation of Asia will ultimately menace the 
security of European social idealism, for the standing of idealism 
is even more precarious in modern Asia than in modern Europe : 
and that would be a strange nemesis if European post-Industrial- 
ists should utimately be defeated by an Industrialism or Imperial- 
ism of European origin established in the East! 


Asia is like the artist in the modern city doing nothing great, 
mainly because nothing heroic is demanded of him : it is enough 
if he pleases and amuses us, we do not take him seriously. It is 
with something of this romantic attitude that Europe and Amer- 
ica have regarded India. The merely philological studies of the 
universities have been conducted in such an arid fashion as to 
be comparatively inaccessible to artistic spirits : on the other hand, 
Indian thought has been popularized and perverted in many forms 
that are vague, mysterious, and feminine, and so brought into 
disrepute. What is really needed is a point of view which is 
practical, rather than scholastic or sentimental: some power to 
grasp what is essential, disentangled by clear thinking from a 
mass of incorrect assumptions. The challenge of the East is very 
precise: To what end is your life? Without an answer to this 
question there may indeed be change, but progress is impossible ; 
for without a sense of direction, who knows if we do not return 
upon our footsteps in everlasting circles? I conclude then with 
this reminder: that the future of India depends as much upon 
what is asked of her as upon what she is. 


The object of government is to make the governed behave as 
the governors wish. This is true of 'good' and 'bad' govern- 
ment alike, and alike of the rule of a conqueror, of a hereditary 
monarchy and of majority government by representation. 

The repudiation of tyranny must ultimately involve a repudia- 
tion of majority rule. Consider a community of five. It is im- 
possible to deny that the rule of three, in so far as it affects the 
other two, is as much an arbitrary constraint as the rule of one 
affecting the other four. It is very liable to be less intelligent. 
In any case, however, the rule of three becomes, on the basis 
of votes, a rule of two: and a majority government will mean 
the rule of two over three. 

Inasmuch, however, as each of the five is unique, and 'one 
law for the lion and the ox is oppression/ there can be no 
entirely just solution outside the autonomy of each. This, which is 
widely admitted to be true for nations, is no less true for 

From an existing tyranny it is possible to arrive at an indi- 
vidual autonomy in two ways. In the first place four of the five 
may revolt against the arbitrary rule of the one, setting up in 
place of it the rule of the majority. The remaining two may 
then assert their 'right* of self-determination as against the major- 
ity. Ultimately each of the five will become autonomous : each, as 
it were, sitting armed in his own house, prepared to repel the 
intruder. This may be described as a disintegration sanctioned 
by the presumed diversity of interests which a pluralistic philoso- 
phy must assert. 

\ Since, however, each still desires to govern (to feel it one's 
['duty' to govern is only the same thing in other words), and 
nothing prevents the exercise of governing powers but fear of 
resistance, the desire will be translated into action as soon as 
opportunity affords: and one, or a group of two, three, or four 
of the five must be regarded as merely awaiting (consciously or 

^Sva-bhdva, sva-rajya, sva-dharma. 


unconsciously) the favorable moment. In the meantime co- 
operation for common ends is excluded by mutual suspicion : each 
of the five will have to exercise all of the functions necessary 
to the existence of an individual, and only a fraction of the 
activity of each will be vocational. This is the inevitable conse- 
quence of resistance, and of that sort of desire to take part in 
government which finds expression in the demand for votes. 

The anarchy approached by self-assertion, however justified, is 
therefore the anarchy of chaos: resistance, however inevitable, 
can of itself only create an unstable equilibrium, which must tend 
to reconstitute the status quo ante. 

The second approach to individual autonomy is through renun- 
ciation a repudiation of the will to govern. As we are speaking 
in terms of time^ we must conceive of this idea as originating 
with one of the five, and spreading to the others. Let us, how- 
ever, ignore the transition period, and suppose that the idea of 
government has become, for each of the five, even more distaste- 
ful than the idea of being governed. 

In this situation there is nothing to prevent a recognition of 
common interests, or co-operation to achieve them (co-operation 
is not government). This will be an integration founded on the 
presumed identity of all interests which a monistic philosophy 
must assert. Neither of the five will expect to receive from 
any of the others something for nothing: but the principle 
of mutual aid or co-operation will permit each one to fulfil his 
own function. Activity will be vocational, that is to say, willing. 

The anarchy approached by renunciation is thus an anarchy 
of spontaneity: only a renunciation of the will to govern could 
create a stable equilibrium. Everyone who believes in the self- 
determination of national groups is to that extent an anarchist. 
And while we must acknowledge that a state of entire liberty 
can never be attained, because the will to govern can never be 
totally eradicated, nevertheless it can be shown that activity based 
on anarchic principles may be and often is far more immediately 
and practically effective than an activity of control. Contrast, 
for example, the result of granting a large measure of autonomy 
to the Boers with the consequences of withholding it in Ireland. 

"The last ideal of a future state/' says Dmitri Merezhkovski, 
"can only consist in the creation of new religious forms of 
thought and affairs; a new religious synthesis between the in- 


dividual and society, composed of unending love and unending 
liberty." Far be it from me to assert that such a millennium 
could ever be realised. But he who knows not whither he saileth 
knows not which is a fair or a foul wind for him. It cannot be 
unwise to shape our course towards the desired haven. So 
much, at least, is possible to every individual: and only he is an 
individualist in truth, who does not will to govern any other 
than himself. 

The 'will to govern* must not be confused with the 'will 
to power/ The will to govern is the will to govern others: the 
will to power is the will to govern oneself. 

Those who would be free should have the will to power without 
the wiH to govern. If such as these are chosen to advise the 
executive, which cannot be entirely dispensed with, this should 
tend to the greatest degree of freedom and justice practically 

Certain of these essays now rewritten 
first appeared in the Burlington Maga- 
zine, the Athenaeum, the Modern Re- 
view, the Musical Quarterly, the Socio- 
logical Review and the Modern School